Marijuana is now legal in four states plus the District of Columbia, and is legal for medical usage in 23 states and the District of Columbia. If you're like many Scottsdale addicts, then, you may see your marijuana use as unproblematic. Perhaps you even labor under the assumption that marijuana is totally safe and can't be addictive. It doesn't matter whether a drug is legal or available for prescription use. After all, prescription drugs are now the leading cause of drug addiction in the U.S. Instead, what matters is how the drug affects you. Marijuana comes with serious side effects, and between 10% and 20% of users eventually develop an addiction.
Marijuana Addiction: The Basics
Marijuana is the single most popular illicit drug in the United States, with nearly 40% of adults admitting to marijuana use at least once. Nearly half of high school seniors have used marijuana, and the drug is increasingly de-stigmatized in medical literature and popular culture.
It's true that it's impossible to overdose on marijuana, and research suggests that marijuana doesn't result in the same serious withdrawal effects some drugs yield. Instead, marijuana is intensely psychologically addictive. More than half of regular marijuana users suffer from an underlying mental illness. For many, marijuana is a form of self-medication, so when they stop abusing the drug, their psychological symptoms can become intensely painful.
How Marijuana Affects the Body
Marijuana's drug classification is the subject of ongoing medical and political debate, though most addiction experts classify marijuana as a central nervous system depressant. This means that it slows down activity in your brain and spinal cord, slowing your thoughts and reaction times. With higher doses, the effects become more pronounced, and prolonged usage greatly increases your odds of addiction. Some of the most common symptoms of marijuana use include:
- Increased appetite; marijuana is sometimes used in hospitals to help improve cancer patients' appetites.
- Fixation on unimportant details.
- Obsessive concentration.
- Excessive talking.
- Decreased inhibitions.
- Difficulty with sexual functioning.
- Confusion, decreased intelligence, and slower processing.
- Slowed reflexes and less physical dexterity.
- Paranoia and anxiety, especially at high doses or when marijuana is eaten.
- Increased heart rate and pulse.
- Increased sensitivity to touch.
Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana addiction is a slower process than the process of getting addicted to other drugs. And because marijuana breeds intense psychological dependence, prolonged use coupled with psychological distress are the two most important predictors for a marijuana addiction. If you feel anxious, depressed, or restless when you can't use marijuana, this may signal an addiction. Some other symptoms of marijuana addiction include:
- Working while under the influence of marijuana.
- Spending all or most of your time high.
- Doing things you regret due to the influence of marijuana.
- Suffering financial problems due to marijuana.
- Being arrested but continuing to use marijuana.
- Relationship problems due to marijuana use.
- “Needing” marijuana to feel normal, happy, or productive.
- Excessive sleepiness.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Hearing from loved ones that your marijuana use has become problematic.
- Short-term memory loss.
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
One of the only good things about marijuana addiction is that marijuana doesn't typically cause the intense physical withdrawal symptoms that other drugs can lead to. Marijuana withdrawal is also typically short, lasting only three or so days. But the temptation to return to drug use can be overwhelming, particularly in a culture that tacitly endorses marijuana addiction.
Rehab is the single most effective option for treating your marijuana addiction. In rehab, you'll get relief from the peer pressure of everyday life and have the chance to pursue sobriety in a supportive, safe, drug and alcohol-free setting. Some of the services you can expect in rehab – services you can also pursue on your own if you're not yet ready to consider care – include:
- Therapy with an addiction counselor. In therapy, you'll explore the roots of your addiction, the ways your past experiences shape your present behavior, and novel strategies for coping with the pain of withdrawal and the challenges of ongoing cravings. If you have an underlying mental health condition, as many marijuana addicts do, your therapist can help you devise coping strategies for managing this challenge.
- Group counseling sessions under the guidance of a therapist who specializes in addiction.
- 12-step programs such as Marijuana Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These programs are free and confidential and allow you to learn from the experiences of other addicts. Though people from all religious faiths have successfully used these programs, they do make vague religious references, and are built around a Christian world view. If you prefer a secular support group, consider SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery instead.
- Medical care. Your physician can help you manage the challenges of detox, prescribing medications to reduce your symptoms and monitoring you to ensure you remain healthy. If you have a physical or mental health condition, your doctor will evaluate you to determine your best treatment options. Your physician can also recommend lifestyle strategies for coping with your addiction, in addition to advising you about medications that may be less addictive than your current prescriptions.