What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit substance in the United States. Most commonly smoked, marijuana is composed of the dried flower buds of the cannabis sativa or cannabis indica plant. Marijuana can be smoked in a number of ways, with the most common being in pipes, marijuana cigarettes known as joints, marijuana cigars or “blunts”, and water-filtered pipes known as bongs. Also, marijuana can be consumed orally in baked goods. On the street, marijuana is referred to as pot, weed, mary-jane, grass, green, and hundreds of other terms.
Marijuana is often considered a “gateway drug”. Some research has suggested that marijuana use amongst young people leads them to use harder substances at one point. However, this theory has never directly been proved in a cause and effect study. The theory does have some validity, as those who smoke marijuana at a younger age are more vulnerable to developing addictive behavior with marijuana and other drugs.
The active ingredient in the plant which produces a euphoric high is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which enters the bloodstream via the lungs. When the THC reaches the brain, the pleasure center is triggered providing a euphoric pleasurable feeling which at the same time clouds thought, concentration and perception. THC affects the same section of the brain that controls memory and focus. It is often reported by marijuana users that they become anxious and paranoid while under the influence of the drug.
Marijuana and Addiction
Addiction is identified as a compulsive, uncontrollable craving for the drug even with potential negative consequences. Often marijuana users will attempt to stop smoking marijuana for an important event such as a job interview or family gathering but find themselves using just before the event. The issue extends far beyond the use of willpower.
Marijuana addiction is a disease that affects millions of people every year. Marijuana addiction is like any other drug or alcohol addiction. It is marked by the uncontrollable urge to have and use marijuana. Individuals addicted to the drug are not able to stop using the drug despite a desire to stop and will continue to use marijuana regardless of negative consequences. Often a marijuana addict will make excuses about why now is not a good time to stop using or about how little they use.
Another trait of marijuana addiction is the physical craving that comes when the body adapts to the drug and begins to develop a tolerance to it. Anyone who has been smoking marijuana for a while knows that they must smoke more and more to feel the same effect that once took just a few hits used to produce. It’s not about the quality of the marijuana; it’s the quantity and duration. The brain readjusts to keep balance with the frequent supply of new chemicals being delivered by the pot and needs that supply to function at greater levels.
According to The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, is America’s most widely used illegal drug. Nearly 40% of the population over the age of 12 has tried pot at least once in their lives and it is frequently used by teenagers and young adults. Use of marijuana has increased this last decade and nearly half of all current high school students in the 12th grade have tried pot according to www.marijuana-addiction.net.
Side Effects of Marijuana Use
The side effects can be experienced right away and can linger up to 4 hours. Marijuana effects can be as seemingly harmless as an increased appetite (munchies) to as life threatening as lung cancer. Other external marijuana side effects include legal problems, work and financial problems and troubles at home.
Marijuana Side Effects Include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Anxiety, paranoia and fear
- Poor memory
- Poor coordination
- Slow reaction time
- Loss of control
Chronic use of marijuana can contribute to respiratory problems, chest pains and a constant mucus filled cough. Cancer of the lungs is also linked to marijuana use because unfiltered marijuana smoke has more carcinogens than many cigarettes.
One of the dangers of marijuana addiction is the misconception that it is not as serious of a problem as other harder drugs. The marijuana around today is not the same that the “flower children” were smoking in the 1970s. The potency of the drug continues to get more powerful and has become mixed with other chemicals. Studies also show that teens can get a hold of marijuana much easier than alcohol. Even addicts who seek treatment for drugs like cocaine or heroin often admit that marijuana is their primary drug of choice.
Some individuals are more prone to become addicted to marijuana than others. Those with family members who are alcoholics or drug addicts are more likely to become addicted as are individuals who parents smoked marijuana and didn’t quit while they were in the third grade or younger. Also, individuals who began smoking marijuana at an early age are more likely to become dependent on the drug. There are marijuana treatment centers and Marijuana Anonymous for people who are struggling with marijuana addiction.
Marijuana Use Treatment
The misconception that marijuana is not an addictive substance keeps many addicts from seeking treatment for marijuana addiction. As with any drug, marijuana can create a psychological and physical dependency. The dependency upon marijuana often creates withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, loss of appetite, anxiety, and impaired memory. These symptoms coupled with intense cravings make it hard for marijuana addicts to stop using without help.
Marijuana treatment centers are one path to recovery. Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer group and individual therapy, positive reinforcement, and healthy environments. Independent therapists may also offer counseling for those struggling with marijuana addiction. Finally, support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous offer a supportive community of fellow recovering marijuana addicts.