Marijuana, like any other narcotic, is also a substance open to abuse. It is often promoted among both newcomers to the drug scene and long term users as a ‘soft drug’ and therefore not addictive. However marijuana like any narcotic can be both addictive and abused. It is also possible to overdose on marijuana and these facts should not detract from the dangers of using and abusing marijuana. Overall, much depends on the individual user, underlying psychosocial factors and the concurrent use of other narcotics.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
It is often debated as to whether marijuana is addictive and if the dependence is physiological (physical) or psychological. Marijuana alters the mood and has an effect of brain activity and when these changes are highly desirable, marijuana is therefore highly addictive. A person who is dependent on marijuana use will allow the drug and their undertakings to acquire it affect their personal relationships and academic and occupational commitments. Cravings are real to habitual marijuana users and long term users will experience withdrawal symptoms upon quitting the drug. All these factors mean that marijuana addiction is as real and disruptive as that of any other narcotic.
However, there are scores of marijuana users who only partake in the drug for recreational purposes, can go for long periods of time (even months or years) without using or craving the drug and will not experience any withdrawal symptoms. This may be dependent on the frequency and duration of marijuana use. Other factors that may contribute to this as well is the concurrent use of other narcotics with marijuana. Marijuana’s effects on memory, mood and perception of time may be desirable for a person who is depressed, suffering with low self esteem and facing social problems in order to ‘numb’ the reality of daily existence.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms and Overdose
Discontinuing marijuana in a long term user can cause symptoms that may vary significantly and it is not uncommon for there to be no withdrawal symptoms. Some of the more commonly seen symptoms include agitation, irritability, confusion, difficult sleeping, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating and depression. However, it is important to take note of the symptoms associated with marijuana use and to verify whether the withdrawal symptoms were actually features that were existing prior to drug use. The signs and symptoms of marijuana use includes :
- ‘Bloodshot’ eyes (redness)
- Dry mouth
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor memory
- Lack of coordination
- Inappropriate behavior associated with loss of inhibition
- Talking and laughing excessively
Marijuana overdose is only seen with very high doses or more potent species of hemp plant with high THC levels. The overdose symptoms may include abnormal sensations (paresthesia), rapid heart rate (tachycardia), shortness of breath, slurred speech, delirium, anxiety, hallucinations, disorientation and/or severe paranoia.
Recovery from Marijuana Addiction
Recovery from marijuana is similar to other narcotics and depends on controlling the withdrawal symptoms, adequate support and avoiding the triggers/scenarios that leads to marijuana use. Withdrawal symptoms are usually temporary but it is during this withdrawal period that users are compelled to seek and utilize the drug in order to ease the discomfort. This can be counteracted with the use of anti-anxiety, antidepressant and sedative drugs and this should be supervised by a medical professional to limit the usage and prevent addiction to these substances. Support starts on the individual level and extends to family, friends and colleagues. Support groups and one-on-one counseling with a therapist may both be necessary. Lastly a person has to be separated from other users and dealers who are often facilitators of the entire habit. This may be easier to achieve in an institution or moving away from familiar surroundings.