Now more than ever, questions about marijuana use and abuse are at the front and center for the national stage. With more and more states legalizing recreational and medical marijuana use, the public faces a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the substance.
So, what exactly does the research say about marijuana abuse? Is it as safe as proponents claim, or as harmful as opponents indicate? As with just about everything in life, the answers aren’t as cut and dry as one might prefer.
The reality is that marijuana can be safe to use for some people, and dangerous for others, but there’s a great deal of data that lies behind that oversimplification. In any case, it’s clear that it’s false to simply state that marijuana is universally safe.
Marijuana goes by many names: weed, pot, bud, and many others, and while there are variations in different types of marijuana, they all come from the cannabis plant. The flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant are dried to create marijuana as it is known.
There are two different basic types of cannabis plants: Indica and Sativa. These different types are known to have slightly different effects on a person, but they each contain a chemical called THC, which is responsible for the effect that marijuana has on the brain.
As of 2017, surveys found that about 55 million adults in the United States currently used marijuana. That figure places marijuana users at only a slightly lower threshold than cigarette smokers, of which there were about 59 million at the same time.
These numbers speak to a fact that anyone who isn’t living under a rock in America could easily state right now: marijuana has become quite mainstream. Although more states opt for recreational legalization every year, it’s important to note that marijuana is still federally illegal.
Most often, marijuana is smoked, or ingested through an edible product that has been distilled with THC. Although marijuana dependence is uncommon, it does happen to about 1 in 7 users. These users might exhibit some of the common signs of addiction, like progressively using an excessive amount of marijuana, or spending more money than they can afford on the drug.
Those who begin using marijuana prior to the age of 18 are much more likely to find themselves in an eventual state of abusing the drug than someone who allows their brain to more fully develop first.
It’s a rarely disputed fact in the modern world that medical marijuana can be an effective treatment method for people suffering from all sorts of conditions. In fact, about 85% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana on a large scale.
One of the most common uses of medical marijuana is pain management. Since physical dependency on marijuana is unlikely, and overdose simply isn’t possible, marijuana is a far more attractive pain relief option than opioids. Of course, marijuana isn’t strong enough to manage severe pain. Additionally, medical marijuana can be used to decrease nausea, stop weight loss, and assist with glaucoma, among other things. What’s more, states that have adopted medical marijuana are shown to have fewer opioid prescriptions filled on a regular basis.
Many marijuana users will contest the assertion that marijuana is addictive; indeed, when it comes to this substance, a clear and standard definition for addiction is needed to make that call.
If addiction is simply defined as the continued use of a substance to reward stimuli, even if the substance causes other negative effects, then there’s no denying that marijuana can be addictive. It’s true that few people ever reach the point of compulsive use of marijuana (as is evidenced by the 1 in 7 figure mentioned above), but it does happen.
The most obvious signs of marijuana addiction are a person using the drug even though it causes direct harm to their relationships or life in some way. Additionally, if a person uses marijuana in situations that are risky, and they seem to get agitated without the substance, they may be addicted.
Since the question of whether or not marijuana is addictive often comes into play, it’s no big surprise that whether or not marijuana withdrawal symptoms actually exist is similarly questioned. The short answer is: yes, someone who abuses marijuana can experience symptoms of withdrawal.
However, these symptoms are much different than those of withdrawal from opioids and other drugs. Mostly, chronic users can expect to feel a loss of appetite and focus, an inability to sleep properly, and a general sense of irritability when they stop using marijuana. In very severe cases, a person might experience chills and stomach problems.
Fortunately, withdrawal symptoms should only last for somewhere between 24 and 72 hours, and they can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water, exercising, and eating healthy. If these measures are taken, even a chronic user might not notice any negative side effects when they stop using marijuana.
Sometimes, people are able to break their own marijuana addictions. Of course, there are some important caveats to that statement: this is only the case if abuse hasn’t progressed into full-blown addictions, and if the user is an adult who only began abusing marijuana once they had entered adulthood.
For people who feel that they can’t function without marijuana, or for adolescents who have already begun abusing the drug, some level of treatment may be necessary to fully break the habit. While inpatient programs likely aren’t needed, less intensive treatment programs may be just what the doctor ordered to disrupt marijuana abuse.
Too much of a good thing can, indeed, be a bad thing. While marijuana almost certainly has some medical benefits for certain users, it can also have negative repercussions on a user’s life when abused; receiving treatment will simply allow the user to rewire their thinking about the drug so that they eventually break the compulsion.
Launch Centers offers a number of different treatment options and can help end the cycle of addiction to marijuana—contact us today.