Marijuana Use Disorder and Addiction

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.



How to Quit Smoking Weed

How to Quit Smoking Weed | Harmony Recovery Center

Marijuana use in the U.S. is at an all-time high. Widespread legalization for both recreational and medical purposes is occurring in many states. In fact, at the time of this writing, only nine states continue to make marijuana fully illegal. Although, at the federal level, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance. The common belief that marijuana is harmless is simply untrue. For many, marijuana use can become problematic and lead to adverse effects in their life.

According to a 2017 survey, more than half of American adults have experimented with marijuana at least once in their lifetime. In fact, nearly 55 million Americans (22%) report having used marijuana at least once or twice in the past year. Furthermore, close to 35 million Americans are “regular users,” or individuals who use marijuana at least once every month

Compulsive marijuana use has many drawbacks and risks. If weed is negatively impacting your life, or you feel you can’t function without it, it may be time to quit.

Signs That There Is a Problem

As noted, marijuana use is often believed to be relatively benign, in large part due to having much less potential for addiction that many other psychoactive substances, including alcohol. That said, regular marijuana use can become harmful and may require professional help to overcome.

If you or someone you love exhibits any of the following signs related to marijuana use, it may be time to cut back or quit altogether:

Experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression without weed. Marijuana use can help to relieve stress. But if you can’t function or feel normal without being high, you may have a problem.

Hiding the extent of your use from others. If you need to conceal your drug use from those who don’t have a problem with marijuana, this is a sign that you are using too much.

Stealing or lying to obtain weed. – If you’re so desperate to use marijuana that you’ve resorted to stealing or being deceptive to feed your habit, this is an indication that your use has gone too far.

Exhibiting disinterest or apathy regarding life without weed. If marijuana is holding you back from living a full and satisfying life when you are not high, this is is evidence that you have a significant problem.

Using marijuana at inappropriate times. If you find yourself using weed while driving or during work or school, for example, you should strongly reconsider your drug use.

Engaging in compulsive behavior regarding obtaining and using marijuana. Continually thinking about how you are going to get your hands on some weed and the next time you can get high is a hallmark sign of addiction and should be taken very seriously.

How to Quit Smoking Weed | Harmony Recovery Center

The Best Way to Stop Smoking Weed

For those with a chronic marijuana habit, the idea of quitting may be somewhat daunting. When drugs or alcohol are at the center of a person’s life, imagining a world without them isn’t going to be easy.

But, whether you realize it or not, frequent drug use of any kind is probably going to hold you back in one way or another. This could mean anything from failing a drug test for a great job or wasting precious time that could otherwise be invested in productive or creative endeavors.

You may not have fully recognized the extent of your difficulties thus far. Still, if you really stop to consider them, you’ll probably be able to identify at least one area of your life that could be changed for the better through sobriety. Quitting marijuana can help you break free from a toxic lifestyle and create new opportunities, and when you understand this, you should be motivated to quit.

Tips to Quit Using Weed

Although detoxing from marijuana may be easy compared to some other drugs and alcohol, overcoming any addiction can be challenging. You may be worried about daily life without its use, and withdrawal symptoms you may encounter during the first few days of abstinence. Still, these concerns should not stop you from quitting and giving it your all in the process.

Fortunately, withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana are relatively mild and mostly psychoemotional rather than physical. In fact, you will likely face more mental hurdles than anything, and these can successfully be addressed in a variety of ways, including the following:

1. Get Rid of Your Supply

Getting rid of your marijuana stash may seem obvious. But, the best way to start being sober is to eliminate drugs and paraphernalia from your environment. This helps to avoid triggers and temptations.

2. Avoid People and Places You Associate With Marijuana

People in early recovery from drugs or alcohol are urged to avoid people and places that might trigger cravings. For example, maybe you regularly used weed with a certain crowd. In this case, you may need to avoid seeing these people and the places associated with them for a while.

3. Exercise Daily

Studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce cravings to use drugs or alcohol. Exercise is also a great defense against stress, depression, and anxiety. It can serve as a healthy coping mechanism for those who used weed to relieve stress or emotional dysfunction.

How to Quit Smoking Weed | Harmony Recovery Center

4. Plan Sober Events

If you have spent many nights partying with other marijuana using friends or family, breaking free from this routine may be particularly challenging. Instead of placing yourself in a triggering environment, you should plan and engage in sober events (e.g., going to movies or shopping with a sober friend) to avoid the urge to use.

5. Recruit a Support System

In most instances, letting your friends and family know that you have a problem and are intent on quitting drug use will be met with support and empathy. In your weakest moments, you can lean on this support system to help you get through difficult times. If those around you are particularly supportive, you can start attending group support meetings, such as NA.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Put yourself in a mindset of success. Goals can be anything constructive, such as going back to school, learning a new hobby, starting to read more, etc.

7. Seek Professional Help

If you have been using weed to cope with an underlying mental health or medical problem, seek the help of a doctor or a psycotherapist. The former can help you find alternatives for managing pain or other conditions, and the latter can teach you improved coping strategies and even prescribe medications, such as antidepressants.

8. Seek Treatment for Drug Abuse

If you haven’t been able to quit using weed despite attempts to do so, you should consider undergoing comprehensive treatment in a rehab facility such as Harmony Recovery Center. Although addiction to marijuana isn’t generally believed to be as serious as those related to many other drugs of abuse, it can become problematic, and overcoming it can be challenging without external support.

If you have struggled to beat a marijuana use disorder and believe you could benefit from professional treatment, contact us today and discover how we help people get on the road to recovery, one step at a time!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug?

Benefits of Quitting Weed

Benefits of Quitting Weed | Harmony Recovery Center

It’s well-known that while marijuana can be habit-forming, most people recognize that it does not have the addictive potential of many other substances of abuse, such as alcohol and opioids. Still, using marijuana on a daily basis can result in detriment to one’s life in many ways. The purpose of this article is to examine the many benefits of quitting weed and how getting clean can help individuals become more engaged and motivated.

At least anecdotally, marijuana is said to have benefits ranging from positive emotional effects, such as mitigating symptoms of depression or anxiety and pain relief. But sometimes, a marijuana habit can be purely recreational.

How Marijuana Use Can Impact a Person’s Life

According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA), compared to individuals who don’t use marijuana, those who frequently use excessive amounts report the following:

  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Poorer mental and physical health
  • More problems with relationships

People also report less academic and professional success. Marijuana use is linked to a higher likelihood of dropping out of school, more job absences, accidents, and injuries. Although the occasional use of marijuana is unlikely to cause significant detriment to a person’s life, daily use can most certainly become problematic. If the cons of using weed are starting to outweigh the pros, it may be time to consider quitting, and sometimes professional intervention is the best course of action.

The Benefits of Quitting Weed

The following benefits are categorized as cognitive, emotional, physical, functional, and social.

Cognitive Benefits

  • More clarity in thinking
  • Improved memory
  • Improved patience
  • Improved alertness and focus
  • Emotional Benefits
  • Reduced depression or anxiety
  • Improved ability to cope with stress
  • No feelings of paranoia sometimes induced by weed use
  • Improved self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence
  • Less moodiness
  • No feelings of guilt or remorse regarding drug use
  • No obsessive thoughts over drug obtainment or use
  • Increased ability to experience pleasure in life without being high
  • Feelings of more intense emotions, no longer stunted by drug use
  • More natural “highs” related normal life events, such as exercising or socializing
  • Less apathy and anhedonia

Physical Benefits

Benefits of Quitting Weed | Harmony Recovery Center

  • Increased energy
  • Requiring less sleep and improved quality of sleep
  • No more “munchies” and possible weight loss
  • No coughing or lung issues due to smoking
  • Increase in physical stamina and ability to exercise
  • Enhanced sense of smell and taste
  • No withdrawal symptoms when coming down from weed
  • Improved overall health
  • No red eyes or dry mouth

Functional Benefits

  • Having more free time for healthy activities
  • Having more money, less financial worry
  • Increased ability to engage in areas that require self-improvement and self-growth
  • Increased creativity

Social Benefits

  • No legal ramifications regarding drug use, worrying about being caught with weed or arresting for DUI
  • Becoming more articulate and communicative
  • No need to conceal habit from friends or family
  • Less isolation from others due to drug use
  • Able to engage in more meaningful interactions with others
  • No more need to socialize with drug dealers or drug users
  • Spending with friends and family for purposes other than drug use
  • Improvement in personal hygiene and appearance
  • Improved relationships with a romantic partner and other loved ones
  • No need to worry about smelling like marijuana in social, work, or academic situations
  • Better able to respond to serious or urgent situations, improved reliability, and accountability
  • Ability to inspire others to quit drug or alcohol use

Getting Help for Drug Abuse

Because marijuana isn’t as addictive as many other intoxicating substances, many people are able to cut back or quit on their own. However, heavy, long-term users may not be so lucky. Fortunately, help is available, and treatment for a marijuana abuse problem can be very effective and ensure the best long-term outcome for a person who has experienced this problem.

Many substance use disorders, including those involving weed, have many psychoemotional underpinnings that contribute to the need to use drugs or alcohol to suppress adverse thoughts and feelings. These issues need to be addressed in conjunction with substance abuse to prevent relapse in the future and promote a person’s overall stability. In doing so, this can allow them to better focus on their recovery and places them in a better position to deal with triggers and life stresses without reverting to the abuse of substances.

Harmony Recovery Center is a specialized addiction treatment facility that offers customized, comprehensive programs designed to treat all aspects of a person’s mental and physical health and emotional well-being. Our programs feature therapeutic services clinically-proven to promote recovery, including psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and much, much more.

If you are trying to kick a marijuana habit or an addiction to other drugs or alcohol, contact us as soon as possible! Each day we help individuals who are struggling with substance abuse break free and begin to experience the long-lasting, fulfilling, and healthy lives they deserve!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Taking a Marijuana Drug Test

Hash Drug Addiction

Hash Drug Addiction | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

Hash Drug Addiction – Hashish, or hash, is a product derived from the trichomes, flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant. Hash drug abuse and addiction does occur and can result in health complications and adverse consequences.

Hashish contains the same active ingredients as marijuana, namely THC. However, this chemical is found in a much higher concentration in hashish than in marijuana. In fact, the average percentage of THC in marijuana in the U.S. is about 5%, whereas the amount of THC in hashish can be as much as 15%.

How Is Hash Used and How Does it Work?

THC acts on the brain by attaching to neurons called cannabinoid receptors. This action induces many cognitive, emotional, and physical effects.

Hash oil is made by extracting solvents of hashish or marijuana. Hashish is usually sold in blocks of solid, resin-like products, but the appearance can vary and ranges from a paste-like substance to yellow, brownish, or even black blocks. Hash oil is typically a golden syrupy-like substance. Hash is commonly smoked or eaten, with the onset of effects being much faster when smoked.

When smoked, hashish pipes or water pipes (bongs) are often used. People have also reported using vaporizers, allowing the person to inhale the vapor and avoid the smoke. Hashish can also be added to food or brewed in a tea.

Medicinal Use and Legal Status in the U.S.

The medicinal potential of cannabis products has been the subject of a few studies, with mixed results. Several states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes.

Despite this fact, it should be mentioned that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies cannabis (and hash) as a Schedule I controlled substance. This classification indicates that it is considered to have no legitimate medical use and a relatively high potential for abuse.

Hash Abuse

The high concentration of THC in hashish products can present many problems for users. There has been a dramatic increase in ER visits due to cannabis intoxication in states that have legalized its use and where the potency of THC is high.

For example, emergency room visits related to cannabis abuse in Colorado increased by 57% between 2011-2013. Individuals who use hashish with very high concentrations of THC risk encountering more dramatic effects and increase the potential for addiction to develop.

Signs of Hash Drug Abuse

Hash use and abuse can result in several signs and symptoms, including the following:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Increased relaxation
  • Increased appetite
  • Sore throat (from smoking)
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Paranoia
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired coordination
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impaired ability to focus
  • Delusions and hallucinations

Hash Drug Addiction | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

Effects of Hash Abuse

Using hash over a prolonged period can induce a range of adverse effects, including the following:

  • Immune system suppression (LINK:
  • Respiratory health problems comparable to those related to smoking tobacco
  • Sexual dysfunction in males
  • Developmental issues in children exposed to THC in the womb
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular conditions
  • The development of mental health problems, such as depression
  • The development of tolerance and dependence

Likewise, long-term hash use may result in structural changes in the brain, which can impair the following:

  • Concentration
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Problem-solving

Other adverse consequences linked to hashish addiction include the following:

  • Poor work or academic performance
  • Job loss
  • Financial issues
  • Legal problems related to illicit drug use
  • Strained relationships with family and friends
  • Reduced interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Neglect of personal responsibilities
  • Compulsive drug-seeking despite experiencing problems as a result of use
Hashish Statistics

Research and statistics specifically related to the use of hashish in the U.S. are scant. However, there are a few facts known regarding the overall usage of cannabis products, such as the following:

  • In a 2013 poll, more than 1/3 of Americans reported having used marijuana.
  • The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that there were more than 22 million people actively using marijuana in the U.S.
  • According to the same survey (NSDUH), marijuana was the most common drug of abuse.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cannabis is second to alcohol as the most frequently identified substance in the systems of drivers who are involved in fatal car accidents.

Getting Help for Drug Addiction

A few decades ago, the abuse of marijuana wasn’t believed to result in dependence or addiction very often. However, increasing levels of THC are now thought to be contributing to such disorders. As a result, more people are seeking professional treatment.

Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers customized, comprehensive programs designed to treat all aspects of drug abuse and mental health problems. Our addiction treatment specialists are dedicated to providing our clients with all the tools they need to be successful in recovery.

Contact us today if you or someone you love is struggling with hash or marijuana abuse, or addiction to any intoxicating substances. We help those who need it most free themselves from the chains of addiction for life!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Marijuana and Anxiety

Taking a Marijuana Drug Test

Marijuana Drug Test | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

Taking a Marijuana Drug Test – There are several different types of marijuana drug tests available. Each test is associated with a different window of detection, and they all have varying levels of sensitivity. Due to the many factors involved, there is no exact way to know for sure how long marijuana will be detectable in a person’s system.

In addition to wide-range of patterns of use, the unique biology of each person makes the prediction of a precise detection window complicated. Moreover, the presence of marijuana in the system is highly variable between people, and depends on their frequency of use, the amount used, and potency of the THC.

How Marijuana Drug Tests Work

An estimated 40-50 million drug tests are performed by employers each year. These tests most commonly examine a person’s urine, hair follicles, blood, or saliva.

When cannabis is used, THC levels increase in the body, which can be identified on blood tests from several hours up to 24 hours or more after a single use. Although these levels fall significantly after a few days, there are still other methods of determining recent use.

Unlike many other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, THC and its metabolites are not water-soluble. Instead, they are fat-soluble, so they accumulate in fatty tissues throughout the body. These metabolite byproducts are slowly released over time, resulting in a much longer period for the body to eliminate marijuana compared to other recreational drugs, especially in excessive, long-term users.

Hair follicle tests have the longest detection window. These tests are capable of registering the levels of THC metabolites up to 90 days after the last use.

Although each drug test has its advantages, urine tests tend to the most popular among employers. Urine tests are the only ones directly recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Like hair tests, urine tests do not directly measure THC, and, instead, they detect the levels of its metabolites.

Depending on the motives of the party administering it, a particular marijuana drug test may be selected for its sensitivity. Sensitivity is the cutoff concentration of metabolites above which a test is regarded as positive. The most common cutoff for urine tests is 50 ng/mL but can range anywhere from 15ng/mL-100ng/mL. These variations result in very different detection windows.

Marijuana Drug Test | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

How Long Does Marijuana Remain in a Person’s System?

Each person has a unique metabolism and biology that processes cannabis at a different rate. Even among those of the same gender and age, lifestyle choices, such as exercise and eating habits, may also influence the amount of time marijuana remains detectable on a drug test.

That said, there have been several studies that have investigated this question. Some can offer guidance for those anticipating a drug test.

One study of chronic users revealed a maximum detection time of 25 days at a sensitivity of 20 ng/mL. Of note, however, it took an average of fewer than ten days before marijuana was no longer detectable. Also, another study that examined chronic users at a cutoff of 50 ng/mL showed a maximum of 40 days of detection time, and 80% of subjects tested negative after just 13 days.

Paul Cary, a toxicologist and researcher from the University of Missouri Health System, conducted a review of these and other studies. He offered some estimates of detection windows that could be expected based on a person’s frequency of use and the sensitivity of the test.

At the standard cutoff of 50 ng/mL, he stated that it would be unlikely for a chronic user to test positive on a urine drug test for longer than ten days. At a sensitivity of 20 ng/mL, however, he asserted that the detection window might be extended to around three weeks in a chronic user.

For those who use only occasionally or for the first time, at the 50ng/mL, he said that it would be unusual for detection to reach beyond 3-4 days. And, for 20 ng/mL, this window may be extended to about one week.

It’s also vital to remember that occasional use and chronic use are patterns of use that represent opposite ends of a spectrum. Most users likely fall somewhere in between occasional and chronic use.

Getting Treatment

If you are worried about failing a marijuana drug test, the best thing you can do is quit using. If you are unable to do this on your own, you should consider seeking professional help.

Many people believe that marijuana isn’t addictive—this may have been true in the past. In recent years, though, the concentration of THC in marijuana has risen dramatically. As a result, more people are experiencing marijuana dependence and withdrawal, and they are opting to seek help for this problem.

Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive programs for the treatment of addictive substances in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Using evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, we provide clients with the tools and support they need to succeed at recovery.

If you are struggling with marijuana abuse, contact us today! Discover how we help those who need it most break free from the vicious cycle of addiction once and for all!

Give us a call today, 100% Confidential

READ THIS NEXT ⟹ Is Marijuana Addictive?

Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug?

Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug? | Harmony Recovery Center

Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug? – There has been considerable debate about whether marijuana can be harmful and possibly act as a gateway to more potent drugs such as heroin. Gateway drugs are substances thought to be habit-forming and may lead to experimentation with other drugs or alcohol.

The gateway drug theory contends that marijuana is likely to be used before a person progresses to harder drugs, such as opioids, meth, or cocaine. There are two suggested reasons for this: experimentation and socialization.

Using a drug like marijuana can increase the desire to use other drugs, leading to more experimentation. Also, when a person who uses marijuana associates with others who do as well, the likelihood that they will be exposed to other substances increases. In other words, more potent drugs may be accessible.

This theory is based on the idea that those who use drugs and alcohol gradually advance through escalating stages. These stages begin when a person uses legal, socially-accepted substances, such as nicotine and alcohol. Later, they start to experiment with “mild” illicit drugs such as marijuana. Eventually, they move on to the use of powerful drugs such as heroin.

Research has challenged this idea, however, and revealed that many people do not follow this series of steps.

How Would a Gateway Hypothesis Work?

Supporters of this hypothesis for drug abuse point to two underlying conditions that could result in certain substances making a person more vulnerable to using other drugs or alcohol.

1) A gateway drug would presumably alter neuropathways in the brain.

Research has shown that animals that begin to use certain types of substances early in life are at an increased likelihood to develop addictive behaviors related to other substances. When these animals are examined postmortem, findings indicate that some regions of their brain are altered. Also, the results of these experiments are similar to observational data seen in humans.

2) There is an interplay of genetics and environment.

Twin studies in humans found a significant genetic component related to drug abuse. This component was exhibited in those who abuse multiple substances. Therefore, certain intrinsic factors may contribute to the altering of neuropathways, and also account for the gateway hypothesis.

Scientists who study drug abuse have identified several environmental and individual factors that may be associated with polysubstance abuse. Thus, the gateway theory presumes that the interaction of intrinsic factors with personal experience may lead to situations that support its hypothesis.

Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug? | Harmony Recovery Center

Evidence Supporting the Gateway Drug Theory

Some research suggests that the use of marijuana is likely to precede abuse and addiction to other substances. For example, one study found that adults who reported using marijuana during the first phase of the survey were more likely than their marijuana-free counterparts to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years.

Marijuana use has also been associated with other substance use disorders, such as nicotine addiction. But there is more to be considered—many other factors may contribute to substance use, including the following:

  • Neighborhood and community environment
  • Level of parental supervision in youth
  • Unique individual characteristics, including biology and experiences

Also, a person who uses marijuana may be influenced by the enjoyability of their first experience, and if they believe that marijuana use is harmful or not.

Evidence Against the Gateway Drug Theory

An impactful 2016 study examined the link between gateway drugs in the early teenage years and drug use later in life. They found that, yes, this behavior was indeed strongly associated with marijuana and illegal drug use such as cocaine later in adolescence.

However, these relationships were inconsistent in adulthood. The researchers noted that “a history of higher depressive symptoms was associated with higher frequencies of psychoactive drug use over time.”

They also reported that “users of mental health services in adolescence were less likely to use drugs in older adolescence and adulthood.” Moreover, they found that “relationships between early drug use and later drug use in adulthood cannot be solely explained by the gateway hypothesis.”

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?: Conflicting Research

Overall, research on the gateway drug theory has produced conflicting results. While some studies support the idea, others bring it into question. One study from the RAND Corporation failed to identify a significant gateway effect related to marijuana use.

RAND theorized another possibility, however, claiming that there “is some support for such a ‘common-factor’ model in studies of genetic, familial, and environmental factors influencing drug use. The presence of a common propensity could explain why people who use one drug are so much more likely to use another than are people who do not use the first drug.”

Researchers also noted that marijuana use often precedes the use of harder drugs, mainly because marijuana is more accessible earlier in life than say, heroin or cocaine. Nonetheless, this may be a case in which correlation does not equal causation.

Finally, an extensive 2017 review found moderate evidence of a link between marijuana use and the development of substance dependence or substance abuse disorder related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. However, it did not garner sufficient evidence for a direct causal relationship.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?: Other Problems

Those who support this theory may not take into account the availability of certain legal substances, such as alcohol. Also, medical and recreational marijuana legalization has become increasingly common throughout the U.S.

If a person drinks alcohol or smokes marijuana, they are likely to do so earlier in life because these substances are more accessible than, say, heroin or cocaine. Of note, few people contend that caffeine or the use of prescription drugs as directed can encourage one to use other substances.

Aside from possible effects on the reward pathway and an increase in dopamine, there is little reason to presume that the use of one substance would act as a gateway to others. Different types of drugs act on different receptors in the brain, which are responsible for addiction.

For example, yes, it is reasonable that a person addicted to oxycodone would progress to heroin because the same opioid receptors are affected. However, marijuana use affects cannabinoid receptors, which are not involved at all with opioid use.

Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug? | Harmony Recovery Center

Finally, some who support the gateway drug theory use statistics misleadingly. For example, these supporters may point to a high percentage of heroin users having used marijuana in the past. They may contend that this implies that a high percentage of marijuana users progress to heroin use, which is not correct.

Even if it were proven that all of those who used heroin had previously used marijuana, it would not logically follow that marijuana was the causative agent in their progression to heroin use. It also does not prove that all marijuana users or even a significant percentage of them later used heroin.

So, is marijuana a gateway drug? Although marijuana use often comes before the use of other drugs, this, in no way, indicates that a person who smokes marijuana will progress to harder drugs. There are many other factors involved, and it could simply be that a person who uses one drug may have a propensity toward substance use of all kinds.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

While the gateway drug theory is still under debate, there’s no question that drug abuse in and of itself can become a severe problem that requires professional treatment.

There’s no cure for addiction and simply telling a person to stop doesn’t work. Fortunately, however, there are effective ways to treat addiction. What treatment is best depends on various factors and circumstances, such as severity of the addiction and whether there’s accompanying mental health conditions (like anxiety or depression).

Our addiction programs are comprehensive, evidence-based, and include essential services, such as behavioral therapy, group support, counseling, and more.

It’s easy to procrastinate getting help, but reaching out for support is the first step to feeling better. We offer confidential counseling services or can help connect you with resources in your community. Just talking about what’s going on can help you feel better, so take that first step by reaching out for help or opening up to a trusted friend or family member. There are ways to feel better, but you have to tell someone what you’re going through.

Give us a call today, 100% Confidential

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Is Marijuana Addictive?

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Is Marijuana Addictive? | Harmony Recovery Center

Is Marijuana Addictive? – Most of those who use marijuana do not develop a dependence on the drug. Likewise, most people will not lose control of their use. They will use it in amounts and for durations that they originally intended.

However, some will go on to exhibit all the classic symptoms of an actual addiction in association with chronic marijuana use. Clearly, marijuana use is not generally life-threatening or nearly as dangerous as the use of heroin or cocaine. But developing an addiction to marijuana is possible and can have adverse effects on a person’s health and well-being.

What You Need to Know


Marijuana is unquestionably one of the most popular drugs available due to easy accessibility. In recent years, it’s become even more accessible because of new state laws legalizing medical or recreational use. For this reason, it may be easier for some to develop an addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that about 30% of marijuana users will develop problematic use, also known as marijuana use disorder. People who begin using marijuana before they reach the age of 18 are up to 7 times more likely to develop a use disorder compared with those who wait until after they are adults to use.

Higher Potency Factor

NIDA also reports that the higher potency marijuana that can be found today may be another factor linked to the increasing number of people who develop a problem. Cannabis seized by law enforcement today contains an average of more than 9% THC compared to 3.7% in that which was confiscated in the 1990s. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for its effects.

Marijuana that is ingested in products that are produced from marijuana extract can contain anywhere from 50%-80% THC. In fact, researchers have been investigating whether these higher potency versions are the reason for an increase in emergency room visits related to marijuana use.

Most early research into marijuana revealed that marijuana use rarely produced tolerance or withdrawal symptoms. However, marijuana that is available today is more potent than that of even a few years ago, containing much higher levels of THC. For this reason, more research into this trend is desperately needed.

Is Marijuana Addictive? | Harmony Recovery Center

Marijuana Abuse vs. Dependence

There is a significant difference between marijuana abuse and dependence. Marijuana abuse is not characterized by some specified amount of use. Some people use marijuana responsibly and suffer no adverse consequences. What’s more, in areas where marijuana is illegal, any and all use is technically considered abuse.

For all intents and purposes, marijuana abuse is probably akin to problematic use, which means that a person is using it in ways that cause problems in life. These problems can include relationship conflicts and underperformance at work or at school.

Dependence is a bit different. Dependence, clinically speaking, involves a strong chemical component that increases in severity over time. A person who is chemically dependent on a drug will necessarily exhibit signs of withdrawal when they attempt to quit.

Marijuana’s ability to produce dependence has been under debate. Regardless, many chronic, excessive users do report withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using. Also, there is a psycho-emotional component of dependence in which a user can become emotionally attached to drug use, and fear what life would be like it without it.

Classic Addictive Behavior

Just as with other drug abuse problems or dependencies, people who continue to use marijuana despite adverse consequences, by definition, have a marijuana use disorder.

Someone who becomes dependent or addicted to marijuana may exhibit many of the typical behavioral symptoms of addiction. These may include the following:

  • Having a loss of control of substance use
  • Needing to use increasingly larger amounts
  • Spending considerable time thinking about using
  • Using in dangerous situations such as driving
  • Using in cases where it is socially inappropriate to do so
  • Denying allegations from others than there is a problem
  • Will continue to use despite financial or legal issues
  • Will become agitated/irritable if they cannot use

Is Marijuana Addictive?: Withdrawal Symptoms

Recent research has shown that tolerance to THC can develop and withdrawal symptoms will occur in some users. Studies of chronic and excessive marijuana users who stop using show that some will encounter the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive salivation
  • Decreased pulse rate
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior

Is Marijuana Addictive?: Risks

There is a common misconception that marijuana use will not result in adverse physical effects. But just because marijuana addiction isn’t as prevalent or severe as many other addictions, this does not mean that the risks are negligible. Several undesirable consequences have been linked to marijuana abuse, including the following:

  • Decreased energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental impairments
  • Increased risk of lung problems
  • Increased risk of heart attack

Is Marijuana Addictive? | Harmony Recovery Center

Marijuana and Schizophrenia

The relationship between marijuana use and schizophrenia is one that’s been researched and discussed for decades. We now know that marijuana can raise the risk of a person experiencing psychosis in both the short and long term. Fortunately, this risk is low. However, the risk of psychosis occurring alongside marijuana is higher for those who are genetically predisposed—namely, a person who has a family history of psychotic disorders.

As it currently stands, research suggests that cannabis use may increase long-term psychiatric effects in certain susceptible people. This effect could manifest as more severe symptoms of schizophrenia in someone who has the disorder. Or, as a catalyst for psychotic symptoms in a person who already has an underlying mental illness. Moreover, scientists believe that in people who are already vulnerable to schizophrenia and begin using marijuana in adolescence may unintentionally instigate this condition.

Marijuana affects the user’s endocannabinoid system, which is a vital area of the brain that’s also associated with schizophrenia. The endocannabinoid system controls many of the functions we use, including cognition, sleep, emotion, and reward processing. It appears that there could be deficiencies in this area in those with schizophrenia and that they could have increased levels of endocannabinoid receptors.

People with schizophrenia may also be more likely to use substances as a means to self-medicate. Some studies have shown that nearly half of those with schizophrenia also have a co-occurring marijuana use disorder. A fact that, in light of research findings, appears to make the progression of their condition worse.

Seeking Treatment

Regardless of whether marijuana has become more addictive or not in recent years, the fact is that the number of people seeking professional treatment for marijuana has increased significantly. As with most potentially addictive substances, people who abuse marijuana often decide to seek help when their drug use becomes problematic due to increasing adverse consequences.

Harmony Recovery Center is an accredited, specialized addiction treatment facility located in the heart of Charlotte, North Carolina. Our facility is designed to be both comforting and supportive of the recovery process.

All of our clinical and medical services, from intake and assessment to discharge, are delivered at our treatment center. We offer comprehensive programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Our services include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Aftercare planning

If you have been trying to quit using marijuana or other harmful substances, contact us today! We can help you break free from the cycle of addiction for life!

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Marijuana and Anxiety

Marijuana and Anxiety | Harmony Recovery Center

Marijuana and Anxiety – People often smoke marijuana to experience relaxation and feelings of well-being. But, for many, marijuana use can also produce short-term feelings of anxiety or paranoia. While stronger strains and excessive use are more likely to provoke these negative states, even occasional use for some can result in an unpleasant experience.

In fact, a 2018 review of a dozen studies found an association between “greater cannabis use” and “poorer symptomatic outcomes in patients with wide-ranging anxiety and mood diagnoses.”

Marijuana and Anxiety Disorders

Marijuana use can no doubt cause brief bouts of anxiousness. However, some research has also linked marijuana use to anxiety disorders and other chronic conditions. Young people who abuse marijuana may be at an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder later in life.

No concrete evidence exists that proves marijuana use alone causes anxiety disorders. And yet, research has revealed that people with these conditions are more susceptible to developing dependence.

A study from 2014 examined the result of 31 past studies on the relationship between several anxiety disorders and marijuana use. Researchers found that those with anxiety disorders were more likely to use cannabis or have a cannabis use disorder than their non-anxious counterparts.

Another 2009 study revealed that people with social anxiety disorder are seven times more likely to develop marijuana dependence. People with this condition experience an intense fear of being watched, judged, or rejected in social situations.


Some people may self-medicate with marijuana to relieve the symptoms of untreated mental illness. Self-medicating can produce immediate relief from uncomfortable symptoms, and this reward thereby reinforces its use.

While the medical use of marijuana is becoming more widely accepted, we don’t know much about its effectiveness or potential long-term consequences. Habitual use can result in psychological dependence and other adverse outcomes.

Marijuana and Anxiety | Harmony Recovery Center


Marijuana can also affect the body in many ways beyond just inducing a high. The high feelings that a person gets after ingesting marijuana is due to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical compound in marijuana is responsible for its psychoactive effects.

These effects do not come without risks, however, and chronic or frequent use has been associated with the following problems.

Psychological Dependence

The biggest problem with using marijuana as a means to cope with anxiety is that it can lead to dependence. While marijuana’s ability to cause a physical dependence has been under debate, there is no question that it can be habit-forming. It’s not uncommon for a person to become psychologically reliant on its use.

This reliance tends to lead to further use and even compulsive drug-seeking behavior. The result is continued abuse of the substance, even in the face of harmful consequences. Although many consider marijuana to be a relatively benign drug, the truth is that marijuana abuse can be harmful.

Long-Term Memory Loss

Research has found that chronic marijuana use impairs memory. This impairment occurs because THC alters the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in the formation of memories. It can also adversely affect the brain’s motivation system.

Exacerbation of Symptoms

THC can elevate heart rate, and if a person has anxiety, it may make him or her feel even more anxious. Full-blown panic attacks are not uncommon among those who are prone to them. Using too much marijuana can produce feelings of fear or paranoia as well.

In some cases, marijuana can also produce orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing. This condition can cause a person to feel lightheaded or faint. Cannabis use can also lead to dizziness, confusion, nausea, and blurred vision—all of which can contribute to or worsen anxiety.

A rare complication of excessive marijuana use is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). This condition is characterized by persistent nausea and vomiting. This occurrence is a bit contradictory, as marijuana has sometimes been used for the treatment of these symptoms.

Worsened Psychological Disorders

People who use marijuana for a prolonged period may experience more symptoms of depression. This side effect occurs despite any improvements they may have experienced during short-term use. Some research has also suggested that heavy use of marijuana during the teenage years can predict depression and anxiety later in life.

Certain people are also at risk for the development of psychosis with cannabis use. Excessive doses of marijuana can induce temporary psychotic episodes. These episodes are characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and feelings of being detached from oneself.

People may also experience other marijuana-related mental health problems, including a worsening of symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

Anxiety in Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana and Anxiety | Harmony Recovery Center

Anxiety is also a common feature during withdrawal among those who use marijuana heavily or for a prolonged period. This fact supports the contention of some experts that marijuana may indeed, on some level, be chemically addictive.

Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within one to three days of the last use, and they can persist after for several days. In addition to anxiety, common withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia

Better Methods to Manage Anxiety

Experiencing some amount of anxiety is completely normal and can be beneficial when a person perceives a threat to his or her well-being. These feelings exist, in part, to remind us that things in our environment are potentially dangerous to our loved ones or us. However, when anxiety becomes persistent and hard to manage, it is probably time to seek professional help.


Coping techniques learned through therapy, counseling, and support groups can create lasting change. This change can occur without the negative impact of prolonged marijuana use.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help a person determine the underlying causes of their anxiety and learn how to manage it more effectively. Working with a therapist to help regulate anxiety will provide an avenue through which to solve the problem over time.


Certain medications have found to be safe and effective for the treatment of anxiety symptoms. Medications such as SSRIs may be preferable to marijuana. This is because the long-term risks of SSRIs have been better researched and may be less significant than long-term marijuana use.

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana abuse can become problematic, and many people find it challenging to quit. Those who are using marijuana in an attempt to reduce anxiety may also be experiencing an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Integrated treatment can address both marijuana addiction and anxiety concurrently.

Harmony Recovery Centers offers comprehensive programs that treat substance use disorders in conjunction with mental illness. Our aim is to provide clients with the tools and support they need to recover from addiction fully and for life.

We believe that every person, regardless of their history, is entitled to the best treatment available. No behavior or mistake is so terrible that a better, healthier life is not possible. As long as you are alive, have another chance.

If you are suffering from a substance use disorder, we urge to contact us as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. We can show you how to regain the happy and fulfilling life you deserve!

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