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Marijuana Symptoms and Warning Signs

While the effects of marijuana addiction aren’t as serious as the effects of other addictions, they can still lead to problems in the personal lives of some users.

Signs of Marijuana Abuse

If you’re concerned someone you care about is using marijuana, being aware of the signs of abuse is the first step toward finding out. Some common signs that may indicate marijuana use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Weight gain
  • Nervous or paranoid behavior
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed reaction time

The Dangers of Marijuana

The majority of Americans don’t have any more of a problem with marijuana than they do with alcohol. Some states have even legalized recreational marijuana use. This doesn’t mean marijuana use is risk-free.

The psychological consequences of prolonged marijuana abuse aren’t completely understood. Some studies suggest that marijuana addiction may increase the chances of developing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, motivational disorder and schizophrenia.

It isn’t surprising that marijuana use affects short-term memory and the ability to retain new information. The long-term effects on memory and learning, however, are uncertain.

Immediate Side Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The short-term side effects of marijuana aren’t life-threatening, but there are potential dangers of use. Marijuana-related emergency room admissions increased by 59 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Some of the immediate side effects of marijuana include:



Elevated heart rate




Impaired motor function


Panic attacks


Impaired cognition


Long-term Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The long-term side effects of marijuana abuse aren’t as damaging as other drugs. However, there are discernible effects possibly attributed to marijuana. Although there isn’t any concrete evidence that chronic marijuana use has damaging effects in adults, this is not the case in adolescents. Some possible side effects of long-term use may include:

Mood swings


Reduced ability to learn


Lung infections


Inhibited mental development


Panic attacks


Memory loss


Possible Effects on Teens

The potential long-term risks of marijuana abuse were highlighted in a study conducted by Duke University. It was shown that among 1,037 people, those who regularly used marijuana as teens experienced an average decrease of eight IQ points. However, the study also noted that IQ differences could be due to other factors.

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Recognizing a Marijuana Addiction

The biggest sign of a marijuana addiction is an insatiable urge to use marijuana no matter the negative outcome. This could mean getting high at work or spending more on the drug than is affordable. Generally, most people addicted to marijuana don’t feel normal unless they can get high.

Some clinical warning signs of marijuana addiction include needing larger amounts of marijuana to get high and prioritizing marijuana use over social or occupational responsibilities. Learn more about the clinical criteria used to diagnose an addiction.

Intervention for a Marijuana Problem

If marijuana is hindering a healthy and productive life for someone you care about, staging an intervention can be a good way to help them make a change. Oftentimes, people who have become addicted to marijuana do not believe they can be addicted, which is why they haven’t gotten help. An intervention is the perfect time to present them with the facts: marijuana is addictive and can have a negative impact on their life.

Parents of teens who have started abusing marijuana regularly may stage an intervention to explain the potential developmental issues that may crop up in the future. Learn more about staging an intervention.

Marijuana Withdrawal, Treatment and Next Steps

Some people who have used marijuana for years have reported symptoms of withdrawal when they attempted to quit. Unlike those quitting heroin or alcohol, the potential symptoms of marijuana withdrawal aren’t physical.

Chronic marijuana users who quit cold-turkey may experience irritability, insomnia, cravings and anxiety.

Seeking help through treatment can teach users how to get over the emotional hurdles of quitting marijuana. Treatment often includes a therapist who can coach patients through rough days and support groups that can provide comfort. Call us now if you or someone you care about needs help finding treatment.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: January 21, 2016

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Retrieved on March 14, 2014, from:
  2. Scientific American. (2013). How Safe Is Recreational Marijuana? Retrieved on March 14, 2014, from:
  3. Drug Abuse Warning Network. (2010). Highlights of the 2010 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Findings on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. Retrieved on March 14, 2014, from:
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