Marijuana addiction is a widespread dilemma, and in the United States over 83 million Americans have had exposure to the drug; many people, however, do not even realize that this marijuana addiction exists. It is a commonly accepted notion that marijuana use is a minor issue, and that marijuana is not “really” an illicit drug therefore it cannot lead to marijuana addiction. This, however, is not true; marijuana addiction is very real, affecting over 2 million individuals a year to the point that they meet the diagnostic criteria for dependence on marijuana. The criteria for marijuana addiction is simply that the drug is used compulsively regardless of the fact that it interferes with basic life activities and causes problems in relationships. In 2000, over 200,000 people entering a drug abuse recovery center said that marijuana was the primary drug that they abused.
Marijuana addiction is serious because of how it affects the brain. Scientists now know many facts about marijuana’s effect on the body and how delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major active chemical in marijuana, acts in the human brain. When marijuana is smoked, THC moves quickly through the body and into the brain where it connects to specific receptors on nerve cells. Areas of the brain with the most receptors affected by THC are parts of the brain that control pleasure, thought, memory, sensory, concentration, time perception, and coordination. It’s these areas of the brain that are most likely to be affected when an individual faces marijuana addiction.
Marijuana use is frequent with pre-teens, teens, and young adults. Over the past decade, drug use has increased in these age groups, and although recently marijuana use has leveled off, it was found that 20 percent of 8th graders, 40 percent of 10th graders, and over 50 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana. Significantly, another study showed that a group of 8th graders who were abusing alcohol and marijuana tested only slightly behind their substance-free peers, but by 12th grade those same teens that were still using fell dramatically behind the average scores of their fellow peers.
Marijuana addiction and abuse is also a problem with many adults, causing extremely serious complications in life functions. A recent study found that of all arrestees, 39 percent of male inmates and 26 percent of female inmates tested positively for marijuana use. Also, since marijuana is often mixed with other illicit drugs, such as cocaine, PCP, and codeine, without the individual’s knowledge they begin abusing a combination of drugs. Therefore, the risks of marijuana do not stand alone; rather they are increased by the potential of using added drugs in combination.
Marijuana addiction can be successfully treated if addressed with the proper treatment. Unfortunately, discontinuing the use of marijuana is rarely easy. Many times a person who is addicted to marijuana will suffer withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, aggression, and difficulty. If marijuana addiction is a problem for you or someone you love, we encourage you to give us a call today to learn more about our intervention referral options.