What Is Marijuana?
In This Article
Marijuana is a natural psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant. It can be sourced from plants within the family, namely Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis.
Common names for marijuana include:
- Mary Jane
The terms “cannabis” and “marijuana” are often interchanged.
But, cannabis usually refers to the plant and other by-products such as hashish and hash oil. Meanwhile, marijuana refers to the drug which consists of dried leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems.
Its main active component is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or simply tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This cannabinoid is attributed with the mild-altering effects of marijuana. It is mostly found in the dried leaves and flowers of cannabis. Although most people prepare marijuana to include the seeds and stems of the plant.
Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the United States.
In 2019, there were 48.2 million Americans using it.1 The number of people using marijuana is also on the rise. From 2018 to 2019, marijuana use increased by over 4.3 million, probably because it is now legal in 29 states and Washington, DC.
What are the Uses of Marijuana
Marijuana is typically smoked as a hand-rolled cigarette (joint). But it can also be smoked with a pipe, a bong, or as a “blunt” which is made by stuffing empty cigars with dried cannabis leaves. Marijuana is also consumed as tea or as an “edible” mixed into food.
Depending on your state, marijuana can be used as a recreational drug, medication, or it may still be considered an illegal drug.
Marijuana as a Recreational Drug
People who use marijuana for recreation do it for their personal enjoyment. They have no compulsion to keep using it. So they tend to use it infrequently or only during social occasions. Recreational users also don’t consume marijuana to get “stoned” and are only after its mild, positive effects.
- Reduced anxiety
- Feelings of happiness
Marijuana contains over 100 cannabinoids in addition to THC and cannabidiol (CBD), which are mainly used for medicine.
Medical marijuana has many scientifically proven uses, including:2
- Relieve nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients
- Long-term management of chronic pain
- Reduce muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis
Marijuana as an Illicit Drug
Individuals who obtain the drug illegally can still use it for relatively harmless reasons like treatment and recreation. Unfortunately, it also opens byways for marijuana abuse, especially among teenagers.
Unlike recreational marijuana users, people who misuse the drug will consume excessive amounts to get high. They also use it more often, and find it difficult to pass off opportunities to use.
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Is Marijuana Addictive?
This is a highly debated question, but the ultimate answer is yes. Marijuana does have addictive properties. And people who develop an addiction will require marijuana rehab.
Most users will not get addicted to marijuana. In fact, only 9% of all marijuana users go on to develop marijuana addiction.3 But people who start using before the age of 18 are more at risk, and have a 1 in 6 chance of becoming addicted.4
Marijuana is often used socially. Since it is legal in many states, moderate use is becoming socially acceptable. This is not an issue for average users who don’t consume marijuana as often or as heavily.
However, chronic users or people who use daily suffer from marijuana abuse. They’re most at risk for developing marijuana drug use disorder. A person is diagnosed with marijuana use disorder when their drug use becomes problematic.
Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana addiction occurs when the user cannot stop using the drug even though it has a negative impact on their life. People whose substance use disorder involves marijuana often develop a dependency on the drug. This means they will experience marijuana withdrawal.
Among these withdrawal symptoms are:
- Difficulty sleeping,
- Intense cravings
“In 2015, about 4.0 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder; 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for their marijuana use.”
Marijuana users may also experience consequences as a result of their drug use, like:
- Falling behind school
- Work-related problems
- Poor memory and learning
- Being involved in legal issues
What Are the Health Risks of Marijuana Use?
Marijuana abuse is linked to many health problems that affect a person’s heart, lungs, and mental well-being.
Physical Health Risks of Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana may be a natural drug. But like cigarettes or anything that is smoked, it can aggravate the lungs.
It can also lead to other health problems with prolonged and excessive use, such as:
- Daily cough and phlegm production
- Frequent acute chest illness
- Increased risk of lung infections
- Damage to the immune system
- Damage to the central nervous system (CNS)
- Reduced brain cells
- Fertility problems
- Heightened heart rate and blood pressure
Mental Health Risks of Marijuana Abuse
Like most addictive substances, long-term use can have damaging effects on the brain. Teenagers have the highest risk because their brains are still developing.5 Hence, marijuana use is linked to mental health disorders, including:
- Personality disturbances
- Suicidal thoughts (especially among adolescents)
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in typically rewarding activities
When Does Marijuana Use Require Intervention?
People who take marijuana may say that the drug is harmless. The fact that it is legal in some states further cements this belief.
Because of this, friends and family members may not know whether their loved one is using marijuana at safe or dangerous levels.
Marijuana Addiction Symptoms
These symptoms indicate that someone may be addicted to marijuana:
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Tolerance, which causes them to take higher quantities of the drug
- Hoarding marijuana
- Spending money for bills and other responsibilities on the drug
- Spending less time on work, hobbies, or social activities to use the drug
- Taking risks while under the influence of marijuana
- Failed attempts to stop using marijuana
- A need to use marijuana regularly, either daily or several times a day
People with marijuana addiction are not weak, bad, or wrong. Like people with alcohol problems and other substance abuse disorders, they have a medical condition that requires intervention. What they need to recover is marijuana addiction treatment.
Approaching someone with marijuana addiction in a calm and caring way is a great way to encourage them to get help. You may find it easier to do this when you understand that marijuana addiction is an illness and not a moral failure.
Can You Go To Rehab For Marijuana?
Yes. People who abuse marijuana or have an addiction to marijuana can go to rehab. Marijuana rehab is also available for individuals struggling with withdrawal symptoms.
Rehab for marijuana addiction is structured similarly to treatment centers and rehab programs that are dedicated to alcohol and other drug addictions. However, there is no single effective approach for everyone.
Substance abuse treatment that works for one person might not be the best option for another. If you are looking for help with your marijuana use disorder, it is essential to review your healthcare options and pick the best type of treatment for you.
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
People with marijuana abuse can choose from inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. These two types of treatment for marijuana addiction have their respective benefits and drawbacks.
Inpatient Marijuana Rehab
Inpatient care is the most intensive type of marijuana addiction treatment available.
Inpatient rehab takes place entirely at the treatment facility. Thus, patients will sleep, eat, and undergo all therapies and treatment programs while living at the facility.
Due to their highly structured and intensive approach, inpatient centers yield the highest rates of success for helping patients overcome their addictions.
How long is inpatient rehab for marijuana addiction?
Residential treatment rehab programs are ideal for people who have previously failed to overcome their addiction or have a very severe case. They typically take place over 30, 60, or 90 day periods. However, the length of treatment may vary depending on the patient's circumstance.
The benefits of inpatient marijuana addiction treatment include:
- 24-hour medical detox supervision and support
- Completely drug-free environment
- Highly structured timeline
- A sense of community
- Aftercare planning
Outpatient Marijuana Rehab
Outpatient marijuana rehab is a less intensive treatment option for people with a marijuana use disorder. It is ideal for anyone who struggles with marijuana dependence, but not addiction.
Outpatient treatment offers the same therapies and treatments as inpatient treatment programs. However, patients do not live at the facility. They often return home for meals (depending on the program) and to sleep.
How long is outpatient rehab for marijuana addiction?
These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days. Although they can be shorter or longer if necessary.
The benefits of outpatient marijuana addiction treatment are:
- You get to stay in a comfortable environment
- You don’t have to give up responsibilities (e.g., work and school)
- You can still take care of your family while undergoing treatment
Ongoing Recovery: Other Treatment Options for Marijuana Addiction
As with any substance use disorder, treatment doesn’t stop with rehab. It is a lifelong process where you always have to keep yourself in check and avoid relapse.
After you complete rehab for marijuana addiction, you can explore the following treatment options:
Many people receiving treatment for marijuana addiction also undergo behavioral therapy.
The purpose of behavior therapy is to help patients address the psychological aspects of their condition. The amount of time spent in behavioral treatment differs from person to person. But usually, it lasts around 12 weeks.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is not only widely used in marijuana addiction treatment. It’s also a scientifically proven approach towards relapse prevention.6 It teaches recovering addicts to understand how their thoughts, feelings, and actions affect their recovery.
CBT is an excellent way to prevent yourself from giving in to cravings and relapses.
Marijuana Support Groups
Support groups are another way you can receive ongoing recovery treatment for marijuana abuse. There are many support groups available for those who wish to quit marijuana use.
Marijuana Anonymous (MA) is the most popular support group for marijuana addiction. It is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and includes a 12-step program to help people work through the addiction.
However, Marijuana Anonymous isn’t available in all communities. Many people seeking support after rehab may find Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to be more accessible.
Other support groups also exist, like the SMART Recovery Program. This is more suitable for someone looking for options outside the traditional 12-step model.
Sober living facilities are not just for recovering alcoholics. It is also open for people struggling with substance abuse, including marijuana.
Sober living is a good option for people who do not have enough support from family and friends or live in environments that put them at risk for relapse.
It prepares an individual for life after rehab and equips them with the necessary skills for long-term recovery.
How to Find a Good Marijuana Treatment Program Near You
If you or someone you know is suffering from a marijuana use disorder, it is essential to get help. A good place to start is by calling SAMHSA’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or use their treatment locator online.
Talking with a professional and doing your own research will help you figure out which type of treatment is best for your individual needs.
You can also talk with a therapist or counselor about your marijuana use. Many therapy offices provide treatment services themselves, and if they don’t, they will help you find somewhere that does.
Paying for Marijuana Rehab
Most marijuana rehabilitation programs are covered by medical insurance. If you don’t have insurance, many facilities offer sliding scale fees or payment plans for patients who can’t afford to pay upfront.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- “2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “Know the Risks of Marijuana.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- “Are adolescents more vulnerable to drug addiction than adults?” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “The effect of CBT and its modifications for relapse prevention in major depressive disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Psychiatry.