Marijuana Use Disorder and Addiction

Marijuana use is legal both recreationally and medically in many states. But, just because something is legal doesn’t mean it can’t be problematic for some people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Alcohol and gambling are both legal but they still carry risk of abuse and addiction. While marijuana is approved in many states for medical purposes, this does not make it medicinal for everyone. Its use can greatly help people in severe pain or experiencing nausea from cancer treatment or autoimmune conditions like Multiple Sclerosis. But, for less severe conditions, the research is less convincing.  

Furthermore, studies now show that marijuana is in fact habit forming and does carry significant risk of dependency. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) states that approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. 

Marijuana Dependency 

Although marijuana isn’t thought to be addictive in the traditional sense of physical dependence and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when not used, it does carry risks of psychological dependence. During the past ten years, marijuana use disorders have increased among all age groups in the United States. Marijuana is much stronger today than in the past and contributes to the development of marijuana use disorders.

Signs of marijuana use disorder includes an inability to stop use of the drug even when it interferes with everyday life. Further signs are withdrawals like irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, and restlessness when quitting the drug. 

Marijuana Use in Youth

People who use marijuana before the age of 18 are between 4 and 7 times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder than adults. 

Because the brain is still developing until a person is 21 years-old, alcohol and drug use in youth can have more damaging effects. In the case of marijuana, use in adolescence is linked to lower IQ (as many as 8 points can be permanently lost) and impairments in memory and cognitive performance. 

Marijuana use in youth has also been linked with mental health disorders, further explained below. A recent study followed 2000 teenagers into adulthood and found that the young people who smoked marijuana were twice as likely to have developed psychosis over the next ten years as those who did not smoke. 

Lastly, a “gateway drug,” marijuana often precedes use of other illicit substances and addiction to them.

Marijuana and Psychological Disorders

Marijuana is known to exacerbate symptoms of people with psychological disorders. In those with a genetic predisposition to Psychosis, including disorders such as Schizophrenia, the use of marijuana can bring forward diagnosis by an average of 2.7 years. The risk of developing Schizophrenia increases with the duration and dose of marijuana use, with regular users having double the risk of non-users. In the case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, of which medical marijuana is sometimes prescribed to treat, marijuana can actually worsen symptoms. 

Adverse Effects of Marijuana Use

Acute Negative Effects
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Coughing
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Increased Heart Rate 
  • Impaired motor skills such as coordination and balance
  • Sleep problems
  • In rare cases, psychosis

Long-term Potential Effects
  • Marijuana addiction
  • IQ loss in people under 18
  • Impairments in learning and memory
  • Respiratory issues, including increased risk of chronic cough or bronchitis
  • Increased risk of other drug and alcohol use disorders
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia in people with genetic vulnerability. 

Marijuana also carries significant risks for pregnant and nursing mothers.  This is because marijuana use can cause developmental risks to a fetus or nursing baby. 

Getting Help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with marijuana addiction or any substance use disorder help is available. Contact us today to see how we can support you through your or your loved one’s addiction.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *