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 and symptoms that may indicate marijuana use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Weight gain
  • Nervous or paranoid behavior
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Dry mouth
  • Memory impairment
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired judgment
  • Distorted perception
  • Relaxed state/sleepiness
  • Feeling “high” or euphoric

However, it is also important to never diagnose yourself or a loved one without the consultation of a medical professional first. Reach out to a treatment provider to ask questions and learn more.

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The Dangers Of Marijuana

Vaguely similar to alcohol, many Americans take little issue with marijuana use. Increasingly over the years, states are legalizing the distribution and use of the substance for both medicinal and recreational purposes, but also like alcohol, simply because something is legal does not mean it is risk-free.

The psychological consequences of prolonged marijuana abuse aren’t completely understood and ultimately require more research. For example, some studies suggest that marijuana use can lead to a dependence and eventual addiction and may increase the chances of developing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, amotivational syndrome, and schizophrenia. Alternatively, medical marijuana doctors may prescribe cannabis for severe and/or chronic pain management, arthritis, or to combat or minimize side effects from cancer treatments. A hot button topic of conversation in today’s culture, it can be difficult to extrapolate absolute truths—mostly because at this time, there is not enough evidence or research.

It is equally important to discuss both the risks and possible benefits of marijuana use—especially as more and more states legalize either medicinal or recreational use.

Marijuana use affects short-term memory and can alter the senses for a period of time following consumption; the long-term effects are less certain and ultimately require more research.

One of the biggest concerns is the age in which an individual began using marijuana. While there is still a lot scientists do not know, studies have shown a correlation between teenage marijuana use and prolonged long-term mental deficiencies such as a loss in IQ points.

Immediate Side Effects Of Marijuana Abuse

The short-term side effects of marijuana aren’t life-threatening, but there are potential dangers of use. Some of the immediate side effects of marijuana include:

  • Paranoia
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Overeating
  • Impaired motor function
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired cognition
  • Anxiety
  • Altered sense of time7

Long-Term Effects Of Marijuana Abuse

The science is less than concrete when it comes to the knowledge of long-term side effects of marijuana use and abuse. While certainly not as detrimental and damaging as other substances, scientists have made some correlations, despite the lack of clear, absolute cause and effect. Some of the observed long-term effects include:

  • Mood swings
  • Lung infections or other breathing problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Worsening symptoms in those with schizophrenia

There have also been studies linking marijuana use with increased experiences of mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

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 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38. However, another study investigating twins did not find a predictable difference in overall knowledge and ability when one used marijuana and the other one did not, thus speculating that IQ differences can be attributed to various other factors.

While the science is relatively inconclusive regarding the long-term effects, researchers do not believe that adolescent marijuana use in particular is harmless. Like the research mentioned above, there are other observational studies that link youth cannabis use with prolonged learning difficulties and challenges with overall mental development as well as an increased risk of schizophrenia.

Recognizing A Marijuana Addiction

One of the biggest signs 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:

  • Consuming more marijuana than intended or for a longer period of time
  • The inability to cut down on intake, despite the desire to do so
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite obvious negative consequences in your personal/professional life

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 you or someone you care about, an intervention can be a good way to help facilitate a change. Often, people who have become addicted to marijuana do not believe they have a problem and may need the assistance of someone on the outside to see what they cannot.

For example, parents of teens who have started abusing marijuana may stage an intervention to educate and explain the potential dangers of a drug so wrought with varying and often contradictory information. 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 primary symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are psychological rather than physical.

Chronic marijuana users who quit all at once, may experience irritability, insomnia, cravings, depression, restlessness, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, and anxiety.

Most marijuana withdrawal symptoms develop within the first 24–72 hours after the last use, peak within the first week, and last approximately 1–2 weeks. Sleep difficulties may last more than 30 days. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) are reported to last anywhere from 12, 18, or 24 months. Some PAWS include restlessness, irritability, agitation, diminished appetite, poor concentration, increased anxiety, difficulty with decision-making skills, diminished ability functioning at same level as prior to using marijuana, and cravings. The process of PAWS are inexorable and it is crucial to learn healthy coping skills to manage PAWS in order to remain sober.

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. Contact a treatment provider if you or someone you care about needs help finding treatment.

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