Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Pineapple Express, a 2008 hit film that netted more than $100 million at the box office, is touted as one of the best “buddy stoner” films of all time. Pop culture shapes our lives each day, by changing or influencing our mindsets and thoughts. Whether we like it or not, some of our strongest prejudices tend to come from the silver screens and Hollywood themes. 

Of course, Pineapple Express isn't the only film that depicts drug use this way, and it certainly is not the only type of media that shows marijuana as a feel-good type of drug. There are plenty of others from Dazed and Confused and Friday to TV shows like That 70s Show

Hollywood's hits have displayed all sorts of substances for as long as they have been around. From alcohol, to meth, to cocaine and any other substance under the sun. All these themes and tropes related to drug use are easy to find and widespread in today’s modern media.

Across the last handful of decades, marijuana’s perception has changed from once being an illegal substance that could land you behind bars to being legalized for medicinal and recreational purposes across the United States. In the last decade specifically, we have seen some states approve of marijuana use in recreational and medical settings while also adding a special tax to it. Think of this in the same way that some states tax alcohol or  tobacco products.

However, simply because it's legal doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with some baggage. Using anything in excess—even if it is legal—is usually unsafe and can lead to some serious consequences.

Again, let’s consider alcohol and prescription drugs. Both are legal and both have the potential for misuse. But, what about marijuana?

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How Addictive Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a drug, and therefore it can become addictive. Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance in the US today. Because it has become so common, many people believe it is impossible to become addicted. A common question related to these changes in the brain that can be attributed to substances like weed is: is it addictive?

Yes, marijuana can be considered addictive.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, reports that around 30% of the people who use weed—or cannabis— in excess will become addicted and continue to show some level of misuse. Some of this is related to the ingredients or components of the substance. Some of it is more to do with the “perfect storm” of risk factors that play a role in addiction.

What Is Marijuana?

According to most research, THC, also known as, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, is the component most responsible for the active effects of marijuana, and as most of us know already, marijuana is a naturally occurring substance.

ECR Marijuana Smoke

The plant form from which marijuana as a drug of use is derived is called Cannabis. There are two types of cannabis: sativa and sativa L. 

These are different in that sativa L has not only a different chemical structure, it also is not mind-altering. This is commonly known as hemp and can be found in clothing, oils, rope and more. Sometimes it can even be found in beauty products like lotions, shampoo and facemasks. 

Cannabis sativa however, is mind-altering. It is what we know as marijuana. It has many other names like weed, pot, grass, dope and more. It is often made up of seeds and stems that can range from green to purple.

Why Does Marijuana Addiction Happen?

While marijuana is not physically addictive nor does it cause a physical dependence, it can cause a mental or emotional dependence to occur. Again, this is due to the active ingredient, THC, which is a type of substance known as a cannabinoid. 

Naturally, our body produces various chemicals. Some of these are known as neurotransmitters. You can think of these as the body’s chemical messengers. They are directly responsible for signals moving through the brain and body. In some instances they are also considered hormones. 

These neurotransmitters or messengers are responsible for emotions and reactions. Reactions like jumping into an ice-cold pool on a summer day or a hot tub during an annual snow storm are driven by these chemical messengers. These neurotransmitters have many roles and functions in our bodies. You can consider them our biological mailing system, like FedEx® for the body.


THC in particular impacts what is called the endocannabinoid system (also known as the EC system) in our bodies. This system is directly responsible for how cells send, receive, and process messages. Imagine them as tiny mail sorters that process each signal as it comes through.

In most cases, cannabinoids like THC impact the system by slowing it down. They slow down communication between the cells. This can lead to all sorts of problems from physical to psychological changes in the body.

When a person consumes marijuana, THC enters the brain by using the bloodstream. This allows it to attach itself to the receptors in our EC system. Remember, the EC system is the mail sorter, and they are tuned specifically to react to incoming messages in a certain way.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when a new or different type of chemical enters and impacts, the EC system can prevent the natural chemicals from doing their jobs properly. This is actually how THC works. It puts a glitch in the system and throws it entirely off balance. Thus, we observe common side effects of marijuana.

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Side Effects, Symptoms, and Overdose of Marijuana—Oh My!

Think back to the films we were looking at earlier. Think of your typical “buddy stoner” or “pothead” or even “hippie”. Remember how they are represented in media, and think about why. Usually they are considered the happy-go-lucky friend, laid back and extra giggly. Sometimes they are even depicted as “slow” and dim-witted.

Both physically and mentally, someone using marijuana may exhibit of “out of it” behavior. Films capitalize on this by dramatizing the experiences of those using. Other films represent it more accurately and even address addiction and how there is a need for marijuana addiction treatment. Sometimes people will be seen experiencing a cyclic vomiting syndrome known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.


Side Effects of Marijuana Use and Dependence

The way films show this is usually entirely off the mark, although in some instances it is accurate. Most people use substances like marijuana because the high feels good and allows them to cope with some other outside stressor. When using the drug, people will often experience a unique type of high. This is not to say it isn’t without side effects. It can commonly be seen with symptoms like

  • Increased senses
  • A different sense of time
  • Feeling humorous
  • Relaxation
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased body movement
  • Impaired thinking and memory

In other instances, it is possible to overindulge in cannabis or marijuana. If you happen to ingest too much, it is possible to experience hallucinations, delusions, or psychosis. It is rare to see this associated with weed in modern media, but it can happen. It is more common for other drugs to be associated with these types of issues.

  • Of course, the feelings—whether good or bad—are not the only factors to think about when it comes to recurrent use, dependence, or misuse of marijuana. Often times, it can be responsible for short-term and long-term effects.
  • Some short-term effects include
  • Altered senses (for example, noticing brighter colors)
  • Altered sense of time
  • Changes in mood
  • Impaired body movement
  • Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • Impaired memory
  • Hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • Delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • Psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana)

This is directly because marijuana over-activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of the receptors that we were talking about earlier. Also, it has been linked to extreme feelings of anxiety and paranoia that can lead to panic attacks which are a result of overuse.

Not all the effects pass quickly. Some effects can be long-term and even lifelong. These include

  • Breathing problems
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Intense nausea and vomiting

Signs You May Be Addicted To Cannabis

Addiction is unique and complex. Substances that can lead to addiction often do so because they can change or alter the usual mechanics of the brain. Like we saw before, our body operates on a special chemical messaging system and if something gets stuck in the gears it can have some serious side effects. Substances of use do just that since they specifically change the way the chemical cycles in the brain work. THC and the other components found in marijuana are the substances that directly affect the brain and its chemistry.

Due to this, there can be some clear signs and symptoms when someone is misusing or potentially becoming addicted to a substance. Marijuana is not unique in this, but it does have some unique characteristics. Some signs are physical and others are behavioral. Marijuana misuse can be usually seen by looking out for the following symptoms:

Physical symptoms

  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Constant hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Slow reaction time or poor coordination
  • Constant cough

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Decreased activity
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Less interest in activities
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • If you are concerned you or a loved one has developed a marijuana dependency, here are some signs you should look for:

Signs of Addiction

  • Increased tolerance
  • Using more than intended 
  • Increased time spent getting high 
  • Reduced activities
  • Using to escape problems 
  • Dependence for relaxation or creativity 
  • Basing choices off of the ability to use 
  • Continued use despite negative consequences 
  • Unable to stop
Again, marijuana is the only substance to do this. Other drugs like opioids, alcohol, meth, and more are capable of causing some of these side effects and signs of addiction. One feature that a lot of people know about substances, and that most people are concerned about when it comes to substance misuse, is that overdose is possible. Many people used to believe that you could not overdose on marijuana.


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Can You Overdose on Marijuana and Is It More Likely if You Have a Marijuana Addiction?

First, let’s remember that like all substances, the way you take marijuana impacts how much gets to your bloodstream and brain. It can also change the high that you experience and how much you ingest before even realizing it.

When smoked or vaped, marijuana enters the bloodstream by way of the lungs. Since the lungs are easily used for moving substances to the blood stream, it can lead to a seriously rapid transmission of THC to the brain. This means that smoking or vaping marijuana can lead to some quick, and even near-immediate, effects. Also, this is one of the most common ways that marijuana is used both onscreen and off.

Smoking is not the only way to ingest it, however. There are many ways it can be made, such as

  • Eating “edibles,” like brownies, gummies, cookies, or candy
  • Eating or smoking marijuana extracts, or potent THC resins (hash oil, honey, oil, wax, or shatter)
  • Orally ingesting cannabis capsules
  • Smoking the dried flower in pipes, bongs, blunts, or rolling papers.
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) THC tinctures, or adding it to food or drink

The effects that marijuana has come from how it is used. We know smoking gives the effects faster, but what if it was to be eaten?

When eaten, THC will make its way to the bloodstream through the stomach and intestinal lining. Think about films that show pot brownies and how the characters often are seen filling up on the brownies without ever knowing how much they are impacting them. Or, think of the story of someone accidentally having an edible without even knowing it at the time. 

In these instances, the effects of the THC are slower to come on but are just as strong if not stronger than other methods of consumption.

The rate in which the effects of marijuana can be experienced when ingesting it orally, or eating it, can often be unpredictable. This can make it easier to end up overusing which can lead to some nasty side effects.
Girl with her head down in her lap

Signs of Overuse of Marijuana

Now, it is critical to remember that marijuana, unlike other substances, is highly unlikely to end up in a fatal overdose. This doesn’t mean overuse doesn’t have consequences, and it does not mean that there are not some scary side effects of marijuana misuse. Here are some signs and symptoms you should know and keep a look out for when dealing with the potential overuse of marijuana.

  • Panic attacks or severe anxiety
  • Psychotic reactions in which the person loses touch with reality
  • Hallucinations, delusions, or loss of personal identity
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Elevated heart rate, chest pain, elevated blood pressure, or palpitations
  • Uncontrollable shaking or even seizures
  • Pale or flushed skin color
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Headache

These signs or symptoms of overdose of marijuana can last longer depending on how it was ingested. Like we said before, the ability of the substance, THC, to get into the bloodstream controls how fast the effects are experienced. It turns out that the way it is taken also determines how long the intoxication from marijuana lasts. Typically, when it is smoked, intoxication lasts for 1 to 3 hours. When ingested via edibles or drinks, the effects can last hours longer than the standard 1- to 3-hour time window.

What Do I Do if I’ve Had Too Much or I Need Addiction Treatment for Marijuana Misuse?

It is important to keep in mind that the overdose feelings of marijuana are temporary. That can be hard to remember at the moment, especially if you or a loved one have some scary side effects. 

Again, we know that the over-consumption of marijuana alone has not had fatal consequences. Overuse of marijuana may lead to unpleasant side effects but there are some ways you can try to combat it if you or a loved one has accidentally had too much.

Remaining calm is key. Find a relaxing, quiet place to wait out the effects of marijuana. Distract yourself by putting on a favorite movie, television show, or album. Taking a shower can be a relaxing experience that may help you ride out any negative feelings.

Contact us right now. Trained personnel are waiting to hear from you, so we can help you start your journey towards a better life

At East Coast Recovery Center, we realize and celebrate there are many paths to recovery. That’s why we offer many treatment modalities in an effort to find the approach most effective for you and your unique situation. Your journey may differ from the journeys of others, but we’ll be there every step of the way, guiding you toward the path most effective in helping you achieve your goals in recovery.

Call us today at 781-400-8018 to get started on your journey toward success in recovery.

FAQ

  • Where Can You Get Help for Marijuana Addiction?

If you or a loved one have made the decision to research marijuana rehab centers, you will want to make sure you find the best treatment available. It is imperative that the program you choose offers everything you will need for a successful recovery.

At East Coast Recovery Center, we offer an extensive list of care options that go well beyond primary treatment. Our program combines medically-proven types of therapy to help you with your journey in THC recovery. We offer the latest in cutting-edge treatment options and strive to always provide our clients with the most effective options available.

In addition to the evidence-based treatments we offer, clients learn skills that they need to live a healthy, rewarding, and productive life.

  • How To Overcome Marijuana Addiction?

If you or a loved one is suffering from the devastating effects of marijuana chemical dependency, don’t wait any longer. Seeking care is the best way to overcome a marijuana addiction. Marijuana dependence can be hard to handle alone, so finding a program of care that is suitable for you is the most important thing you can do when overcoming addiction.