There is a lot of confusion surrounding marijuana these days. On one side, there are people who consider marijuana to be an illicit drug that puts users at risk for addiction. On the other side are people who feel that there is nothing wrong with smoking pot.
There are also the facts to contend with. More states are legalizing marijuana, and it’s being used increasingly in the medical community to treat a wide variety of symptoms.
If you catch your teen or spouse with marijuana, should you be concerned and seek treatment, or should you let it go? We can understand your confusion!
To help you sort through the varying opinions online, we’ve put together this informational page on marijuana that we thought you would find helpful.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana refers to the dried flowers, seeds and leaves of the Indian hemp plant. Many names are used to describe the drug, but it’s all the same: a hallucinogen that distorts how the mind perceives things.
The chemical responsible for this distortion is called THC. The amount of THC in marijuana varies among batches, but it has increased over the years. This means that marijuana is stronger and more potent than it was years ago.
How Common is it?
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. Over 40 percent of the US population has admitted to using marijuana at least once in their lives. Though occasional use isn’t usually harmful, it can still affect the brain and body. Marijuana is also believed to be a gateway drug, and it can put people at risk for addiction.
How is Marijuana Used?
There are two ways that marijuana gets into the body. The most common way is by smoking the leaves, flowers and stems of the plant. But it can also be ingested by mixing it into foods like brownies, lollipops and cookies, or it can be brewed in tea.
What are the Short-Term Effects?
Regardless of how it gets into the system, marijuana affects every organ in the body, including the nervous system and immune system. The effects can be felt within minutes, with short-term effects lasting 2-3 hours.
The most common effects from marijuana include a “dreamy” state as well as an increased heart rate and decreased coordination and balance. Other typical effects from marijuana use are:
- Increased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Shallow breathing
- Slowed reaction time
- Red eyes
- Dilated pupils
Can Marijuana Ever Cause Serious Side Effects?
While most of the effects from marijuana are mild, there are side effects that can be unpleasant and take a toll on the body. For instance, marijuana can double the heart rate for as many as 3 hours. It can increase bleeding, lower blood pressure and affect blood sugar.
It’s also possible that smoking marijuana can put an individual at risk for lung cancer, but the research is unclear. Smoking pot does irritate the lungs, which is why regular pot smokers tend to have a chronic cough and ongoing health problems like chest colds and lung infections.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
According to one study in JAMA Psychiatry, it’s estimated that 30 percent of marijuana users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. The younger a person is when they start using the drug, the more at risk they are for developing this disorder. While the disorder doesn’t necessarily mean addiction, it can take the form of one in the future.
In most cases, marijuana leads to dependence. This means that users will feel withdrawal symptoms if they haven’t used the drug, including irritability, mood and sleep difficulties and restlessness. These symptoms typically last for 1-2 weeks, with the first week being the worst.
Despite what people may say or report online, marijuana can be addictive. It’s also possible that marijuana can be a gateway drug, meaning that it opens up the door to trying harder drugs like cocaine or heroin.
Is Treatment Necessary?
One of the most common questions we get is whether or not a person needs treatment if they are dependent on marijuana. The answer: it depends.
For users who are dependent on the drug but have the desire to quit, it is possible to stop using marijuana on their own and be successful. The withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, but they aren’t life threatening.
What many people don’t realize is that quitting marijuana requires more than just the desire to stop. People need to change their behaviors and their habits. They may need to change friends, find new hobbies or look for a new job. If they don’t, they may end up right back where they were.
If a person is addicted to more than just marijuana, or clearly has signs of a full-blown addiction, intervention is necessary. Addiction is a complex condition that requires treatment. People with addiction need help breaking the cycle of negative thinking and poor choices, which can be achieved through counseling and other therapies.
We hope this information has helped clear up any confusion regarding marijuana. While there is a lot of controversy on the issue, it’s important not to lose sight that marijuana can be an addictive substance. If you would like to discuss this topic further, call The River Source. Your call is confidential.