Marijuana Warning Signs & Dangers

Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused recreational substances within the country. Also known as weed, tree, or herb, marijuana is comprised of dried up flowers, stems, and leaves from the cannabis sativa plant. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as “THC”, is the psychoactive ingredient within this substance. When an individual consumes marijuana, by either smoking it or adding it to food or tea and ingesting it, the immediate effects of the substance include relaxation, stimulated appetite, mild pain relief, and perceptional distortions to time and space.

While many states have both decriminalized or legalized marijuana for specific uses, these legislative moves do not mean that the use of this substance comes without danger. Continued abuse of marijuana has been linked to a number of dangerous outcomes, including possibly irreversible changes within certain parts of the brain.

When an individual’s use of marijuana leads to serious impairment or upset, and when the individual is no longer able to control how much or how often he consumes marijuana, he has likely developed cannabis use disorder. Luckily, however, there is comprehensive treatment available for those who desire to put an end to their cannabis use and make the changes needed to live a happy, healthy life.

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that roughly 19.8 million individuals throughout the country have abused marijuana within the past 30 days. NIDA also reports that nearly 2.4 million Americans use marijuana for the first time every year, with nearly 78% of first-time users being within the age range of 12 and 20. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in 2011, there were 456,000 emergency room visits that involved the use of marijuana.

Causes and Risk Factors for Marijuana Abuse

A variety of genetic and environmental factors can play a role in the chances that an individual will develop cannabis use disorder or abuse marijuana in the future, including:

Genetic: Research has shown that the heritability of substance use disorders shows that those who have parents or siblings with chemical dependency issues are more likely to also struggle with the same issues. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that genetic factors may make up nearly 80% of the total risk factor connected to cannabis use disorder.

Environmental: Numerous environmental factors, such as using tobacco, struggling in school, living within an unstable or abusive household, having access to marijuana, and hanging out with those who abuse this substance can all impact an individual’s chances of abusing marijuana and developing cannabis use disorder. Having family members who use marijuana is also an environmental factor in an individual’s decision to do the same.

Risk Factors:

  • Being abused, neglected, or otherwise exposed to trauma
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Personal history of conduct disorder and/or antisocial personality disorder
  • Having access to and being able to afford marijuana
  • Family history of mental illness, substance abuse, and/or addiction
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Early involvement with substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

The abuse of marijuana and cannabis use disorder might be shown through a number of signs and symptoms, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Fear and/or paranoia
  • Unstable mood
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Continual, long-term abuse of marijuana and untreated cannabis use disorder can cause an individual to experience physical, emotional, and socioeconomic problems. Some of the possible effects of marijuana abuse can include:

  • Family discord
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Abuse of other substances
  • Diminished cognitive functioning
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Financial damage
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Breathing problems, including bronchitis
  • Compromised immune system

Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who abuse marijuana or who have developed cannabis use disorder might also battle with the below listed co-occurring mental health conditions:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Effects of Withdrawal from Marijuana

When an individual has been abusing marijuana heavily and attempts to stop use abruptly or reduce his use, he will likely go through a number of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including:

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