Marijuana Abuse Symptoms & Warning Signs

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Learn about marijuana addiction & abuse

One of the most commonly abused substances in the United States is marijuana. Also known as herb, weed, or tree, marijuana is comprised of leaves, dried flowers, and stems from the cannabis sativa plant. The psychoactive component of marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is also known as THC. When an individual consumes marijuana by smoking it, adding it to food and eating it, or putting it in tea and drinking it, the sudden, short-term effects include increased relaxation, increase in appetite, mild pain relief, and changes in an individual’s perception of space and time.

Even though many states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, this substance still carries the potential to cause dangerous side effects. Continued abuse of marijuana has been linked to a number of severe outcomes, including possibly permanent changes in the structure and function of the brain.

When an individual’s use of marijuana starts to cause serious impairment and distress, and when the individual starts to display symptoms that show that he or she is no longer able to control the frequency or amount that is being consumed, he or she might have developed cannabis use disorder. Luckily, there is comprehensive treatment that has proven to be highly effective in helping those with cannabis use disorder overcome their challenges and develop healthier lifestyles.


Statistics on marijuana addiction & abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that roughly 19.8 million people throughout the United States have abused marijuana within the past 30 days. NIDA also states that nearly 2.4 million Americans use marijuana for the first time each year, with about 78% of first-time users being between 12 and 20 years of age. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), 456,000 emergency room visits in 2011 involved individuals who had been abusing marijuana.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors of marijuana addiction & abuse

A variety of genetic and environmental factors can impact the chances of an individual abusing marijuana or developing cannabis use disorder. Consider the following:

Genetic: Studies regarding the heritability of substance disorders show that those with parents or siblings who struggle with chemical dependency are at a greater risk for struggling with similar issues. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that genetic factors can make up nearly 80% of the total risk variance related to the development of cannabis use disorder.

Environmental: A number of environmental factors, including tobacco use, struggling academically, living in an unstable or abusive home, having access to marijuana, and hanging out with individuals who abuse marijuana can all play into the development of cannabis use disorder. Additionally, those with family members who abuse this substance can impact a person’s decision to start using.

Risk Factors:

  • Youth (first use of marijuana most often occurs between ages 12 and 20)
  • Early involvement with substance abuse
  • Personal history of conduct disorder and/or antisocial personality disorder
  • Having access to and being able to afford marijuana
  • Being abused, neglected, or otherwise exposed to trauma
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Family history of mental illness, substance abuse, and/or addiction
  • Prior substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction & abuse

Marijuana abuse and cannabis use disorder can bring on a number of signs and symptoms, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Possession of rolling papers, water pipes, and other drug paraphernalia
  • Acting secretively or deceptively regarding one’s activities and/or whereabouts
  • Prioritizing marijuana abuse over friends, family, and significant activities
  • Declining performance at work
  • Social withdrawal
  • Having an odor of marijuana on one’s body or clothes
  • Use of incense to hide smell of marijuana
  • Multiple unexplained absences from work
  • Engaging in risky, reckless, or otherwise dangerous behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Impaired balance, coordination, and motor skills
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased cravings for food

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired ability to concentrate or focus
  • Impaired ability to perceive the passage of time

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Unstable mood
  • Irritability
  • Fear and/or paranoia
  • Agitation


Effects of marijuana addiction & abuse

Long-term marijuana abuse or cannabis use disorder that have gone untreated can deeply affect an individual’s emotional, physical, and socioeconomic wellbeing. Below are some of the most common effects of marijuana abuse:

  • Breathing problems, including bronchitis
  • Compromised immune system
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Financial damage
  • Heart damage
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Injury from impaired coordination and recklessness
  • Social isolation
  • Diminished sexual functioning
  • Abuse of other substances
  • Diminished cognitive functioning
  • Family discord
  • Strained interpersonal relationships


Effects of marijuana withdrawal

When an individual has been continually (and heavily) abusing marijuana and then attempts to abruptly stop or control his or her use, he or she can begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Strong cravings for marijuana
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Appetite suppression
  • Agitation and irritability