Marijuana, commonly referred to as weed or pot, is a green mixture of dried flowers and leaves from the Cannabis plant. It is a psychoactive drug that triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, producing a “high” and heightened sensory perception. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main chemical in cannabis that produces the psychoactive effects you feel.
Additionally, marijuana can be classified as a depressant, hallucinogen, or stimulant. Other popular street names for the drug include:
Using marijuana typically results in a relaxed state-of-mind. Depending on the person, the drug can either increase or decrease feelings of anxiety, depression, and paranoia. There are a few different forms of marijuana that people can use to obtain a high, including:
Marijuana is legal for recreational use in 11 U.S. states and D.C. for adults over 21. It is also legal for medical use in 33 U.S. states (with a prescription medical card).
Almost immediately after consuming the drug, you’ll experience a “high” that typically lasts several hours. Although, some forms of marijuana (e.g., edibles) produce effects that can last up to 12 hours. Short-term effects can include:
Rare side effects that can occur when THC is taken in very high doses include:
Many people smoke or use marijuana in social settings. Due to its legality in many U.S. states, it is also more socially acceptable to consume in moderation. Since the drug is becoming widely available, some users do not feel the need to quit even if they have a problem (similar to alcohol).
Marijuana has addictive properties, and in severe cases, addiction can form. Using the drug frequently and for many years can lead to the development of a marijuana use disorder. For example, chronic marijuana users who cannot get through an entire day without consuming the drug are at risk for addiction.
In 2015, about four million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder. People who begin using before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop an addiction than adults.
Marijuana use disorder, also called cannabis use disorder (CUD), is defined as continually using the drug despite clinically significant impairment. In other words, marijuana addiction is connected to dependence, which means withdrawal symptoms will develop after stopping use.
Those with CUD continue using the drug, even though it negatively interferes with everyday life and relationships. Marijuana addiction is commonly connected to other substance use disorders, such as alcohol, and mental health disorders. It can also lead to behavioral problems and cognitive impairment.
Marijuana addiction goes largely untreated, since using the drug is more acceptable nowadays. It is also twice as common among men than women.
After quitting use, someone with a marijuana use disorder may experience the following symptoms during the withdrawal phase:
Marijuana does have some health benefits, such as aiding in pain relief and reducing nausea. It is also commonly prescribed to cancer patients and those with chronic illnesses. However, many people tend to abuse the substance and do not need it for medical reasons. Doing so can lead to adverse health consequences over time, such as:
If you or a loved one is struggling with CUD, treatment is available. In most cases, visiting a comprehensive treatment center is not necessary. This is because marijuana is not as addictive as other drugs (e.g., heroin, meth, alcohol, and cocaine). Of those who use cannabis daily, 10 to 20 percent develop dependence.
Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can occur in one-half of patients in treatment for cannabis use disorders. These symptoms include dysphoria (anxiety, irritability, depression, restlessness), disturbed sleep, gastrointestinal symptoms, and decreased appetite. It is often paired with Rhythmic movement disorder. Most symptoms begin during the first week of abstinence and resolve after a few weeks.
Treatment for CUD may include:
For some individuals, marijuana is challenging to quit without professional treatment. Find treatment today.
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Berke, Jeremy. “Legal Marijuana Just Went on Sale in Illinois. Here Are All the States Where Cannabis Is Legal.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 1 Jan. 2020, www.businessinsider.com/legal-marijuana-states-2018-1.
“Marijuana Use Disorder Is Common and Often Untreated.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 Mar. 2016, www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/marijuana-use-disorder-common-often-untreated.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is Marijuana Addictive?” NIDA, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is Marijuana?” NIDA, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana.