College Marijuana Use: What if it isn’t Just a Phase?

 In Addiction, Mental Health

Young adults who use marijuana might be in the mindset that it’s just for now, that smoking is fun and relaxing, but what happens when you grow up? What happens if it isn’t just a phase?

Creating a Dialogue

The culture of marijuana use has drastically changed in the last decade as many states have approved medical or recreational use of marijuana. At the same time, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which characterizes it as “having no medical value” and “high abuse potential”. There are clearly mixed opinions about the legalization of marijuana and how it’s usage can affect people’s lives.

Instead of dueling about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, maybe it is time to consider the gray. In this challenge of the middle ground, there is the potential to be curious and build insight on how substance use may be affecting your life or the ones around you.   

Can You Get Addicted?

You may have heard things like “weed is natural, so you can’t get addicted”. Even though marijuana dependence most likely will look very different from an opioid addiction, there can still be compulsive use, withdrawal, cravings, and difficulties quitting like any other substance.  

What if a regular smoker went on a cruise and wasn’t able to bring any weed? This is a time where things should feel stress-free while enjoying the sun and the sand. Instead, this person may be feeling irritable, having trouble sleeping, or might be having more arguments with their partner. These are symptoms of withdrawal and show a potential dependence on the substance. The biggest thing to consider is an inability to stop use even when there are negative consequences to using. 

In many ways, people who use marijuana also tend to view their use differently than nonusers do. Let’s consider a girl who smokes during a party in order to “take the edge off”, but then becomes less social and disconnected when she is high. She may perceive her use as making her more fun around people, but her friends see it differently. This lack of awareness could be clouding the judgment of how marijuana could affect different parts of life, especially when new responsibilities emerge. 

Arrested Development 

It may potentially feel like a heavy weed smoker is stuck in the age when they first started smoking. This could be because in many instances, users have more trouble dealing with the stresses of life and may turn to weed for relief. This pattern may lead others in their life to view them as unapproachable or not present. 

In a study done by Heitzeg et. al, People who were heavy marijuana users as young adults have been found to be more likely to be less resilient and have more negative emotions according to brain responses. This cycle could produce challenges in a variety of life roles.

Love Life 

There is a possibility that a committed relationship could become more tension-filled if one partner uses marijuana. According to research, people who used marijuana during the time between being a teen and young adult had more relationship conflict than control groups. These couples were seen to be less peaceful or connected. In general, partners feel less supported and tend to expect less or disengage from an already disengaged partner. 

Potentially, the empathy that should increase in young adulthood could be stunted causing more misunderstandings and poor harmony in romantic relationships. There may be a lack of awareness about their partner’s needs or feelings and when fights come out the user might have more problems sharing their feelings in a mature way. 

Home Life 

Being an asset to the household instead of deadweight could also be a concern for marijuana use. When a person is intoxicated with marijuana there could be a number of symptoms present: difficulty concentrating, trouble with problem-solving, poor short-term memory, and sedation. This is not the picture of someone who is wanting to do chores or tasks around the house and may leave other adults feeling burdened. Symptoms of depression are also common with marijuana use which can create a larger barrier to feeling present in the home. 

Parenting is another role in the home that could be affected by symptoms of marijuana use. Disciplining and raising a child takes a lot of patience and attention. Many people may think they are more ‘chill’ or ‘relaxed’ as parents when using, though research has found that marijuana users tend to be more punitive. This could be related to more difficulties handling stress or being more irritable. In addition, this study found that it is more likely for parents who smoke marijuana to have a difficult time establishing structure or showing affection to their children. 

Work-Life

Having a full-time job while using marijuana could also put on an extra strain. Chronic marijuana use could cause lack of motivation, which could make it difficult to stay focused or disciplined at work. The same problems users have at home, like difficulties handling discord, problem-solving, or being intuitive, could equally affect co-worker relationships.

Additionally, there is the potential fear of job loss as many companies, even in states where weed is recreationally legal, follow federal laws when it comes to drug testing. People who use marijuana can be seen as a liability for workplace injury and could be terminated if tested positive for marijuana or could be denied compensation for a workplace injury. Even if marijuana use is accepted in a workplace, there may be some serious brain fog and trouble coping. 

Questions for Self-Reflection

While reading this there may have been some defenses that came up or potential concern.  Those are both valid reactions and may open up some reflection on what role marijuana has in your life now and what you would like for your future. Consider having a conversation with someone close to you or journaling based on the questions below. 

  • What role does cannabis play in your life? 
  • How do your loved ones view your marijuana use? Are you receptive to their feedback and perspectives? 
  • What are the benefits of using cannabis versus the benefits of not using? 
  • When would you know your use has become a problem?
  • Do you have any concerns or questions about your current marijuana use? 
  • What steps or changes need to be made to answer questions and address these concerns?

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction or dependency to marijuana, allow Launch Centers to help. We provide outpatient drug treatment in Los Angeles, and we’re passionate about helping people regain control of their life. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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