Marijuana Addiction Statistics

Marijuana is a mood-altering drug used throughout the United States and around the world. Produced from the cannabis plant, marijuana is most commonly smoked through a pipe or cigarette (joint), but can also be eaten in the form of baked goods, lozenges, and drinks. Although marijuana is federally banned in the United States, some states have legalized medicinal use through prescription for ailments ranging from insomnia to cancer. To date, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US with users ranging in age, geography, income bracket, ethnicity, and religion.

Of all illicit drugs of abuse, marijuana is considered by many to be the most innocuous, since it does not cause dependence in most people, nor does it typically generate irrational or manic behavior. Despite these general considerations, marijuana addiction effects many lives adversely as a result of unmanageability created by the chaos and compulsion of addiction.

Marijuana Use

Marijuana is used by millions of people in the US for recreational and medicinal purposes. Produced from the cannabis plant, marijuana contains a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which produces the high users feel when ingesting it. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug, meaning it changes the user's brain function to effect things like:

  • Perception
  • Mood
  • Behavior
  • Consciousness
  • Cognition

Under the influence of marijuana, a user's reaction time is slowed, along with many other brain functions, making certain activities which require alertness very dangerous. Like any other drug, marijuana creates a euphoric high that is often accompanied by some telltale signs of its use. Some of these signs are:

  • bloodshot eyes
  • cotton mouth - very dry mouth
  • sudden lethargy or fatigue
  • sudden onset of hunger - "munchies"
  • appearance of over-relaxation
  • paranoia
  • silliness

Most marijuana users began their use earlier than 18 years of age, and a frighteningly large percentage of those who tried marijuana went on to try other drugs, seeking out a higher high. For this reason, marijuana is still considered to be a gateway drug to harder, more dangerous substances. Despite the many dangers associated with marijuana use, it is often referred to as a "soft drug," while other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth are considered as "hard drugs." While all of these drugs create euphoric feelings in their users, marijuana is often the first drug tried because of it's place in the social drug hierarchy. Marijuana not only easily accessible, but it has the least negative stigma attached to it. Most adults will freely admit to having tried marijuana at some point in their lives. Marijuana use, while illegal in the US for recreational purposes, does not carry the same negative stereotypes as drugs like cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, crack, etc. for a few reasons, some of which are:

  • Marijuana is not considered by most to be addictive, making it's use easier to stop, if and when unmanageability begins.
  • Unlike other drugs, marijuana use is not known for many of the addictive behaviors exhibited with its use, such as
    1. violence
    2. severe mood swings
    3. theft and robbery to obtain money for the drug
    4. overall unmanageability in personal and professional life as a result of continued marijuana use
  • Everyone does it. Although never an excuse for using drugs, the fact that marijuana use is so widespread and accepted in many social circles, makes its use seem innocuous enough to try.

Since marijuana slows the user's brain functions, it is often also used with other drugs which have similar effects like alcohol, synthetic opiates, and heroin. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, of the people, admitted to treatment for marijuana addiction in 2008, 45.4% named alcohol to be their secondary drug of abuse. Depressant drugs like alcohol, heroin, and synthetic opiates accounted for 68.4% of all secondary drugs of abuse for marijuana addicts in treatment in 2008. It is not uncommon for addicts to mix their use with other substances with similar effects for enhancement of their high.

How Does Marijuana Addiction Happen?

Marijuana addiction is the result of excessive abuse of the drug and a growing tolerance - which can lead to dependence. Although it is very commonly used without significant negative consequences, many people suffer from marijuana addiction. As with any other drug, depending on the frequency and severity of use, marijuana and its effects can be very addictive. For many addicts, the relaxation they feel as a result of marijuana use can take their mind away from the traumas, pains, and difficulties in their lives. It is this escape that most addicts seek when they turn to drugs.

Marijuana addiction happens gradually, as tolerance to it grows, and use becomes more frequent. Some common signs of marijuana addiction are:

  • Use of marijuana in larger amounts and increasing frequencies
  • Defensiveness about use of marijuana
  • Irresponsibility as a result of marijuana use (i.e., missing/forgetting about appointments, lack of punctuality)
  • Lack of interest in things that had once been interesting and fun
  • Short term memory loss

Whether its marijuana or any other substance or behavior, addiction is a progressive, insidious, and deadly disease if gone untreated. Marijuana addiction creates unmanageability in the addict's life as a result of the behaviors that are driven by the desire for more marijuana.

Unmanageability is defined differently for each, but some broader descriptions can be characterized as:

  • Deteriorating relationships with friends and family
  • Financial hardships resulting from compulsive spending for marijuana or lack of production at work
  • Loss of income due to persistent absence or underperformace
  • Failing health
  • Loss of self esteem

Marijuana addiction is a real disease, and like addiction to any other drug, it is the behaviors surrounding addiction that make it so dangerous and deadly. Although marijuana and its effects are not as life-threatening as some other drugs, addiction is indiscriminate and can effect people of any age, race, class, or ethnicity. Through many years of research and experience, addiction treatment professionals have learned that addiction generally stems from past trauma, difficulty, loss, or other hardship from which the addict was trying to escape. Whatever the means, whether alcohol, gambling, marijuana, or other drugs, addiction take a terrible toll on all who suffer from it and witness it.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Treatment for marijuana addiction is no different from treatment for addictions to other drugs. Since addiction is all about the behaviors associated with and around a particular substance or activity, the goal of any marijuana addiction treatment program is to teach addicts how to live normal, functional lives without turning back to marijuana use. In marijuana addiction treatment, addicts learn how their lives had become unmanageable as a result of their addiction, and gain tools and knowledge for continued sobriety after addiction treatment has been completed.

Unlike other drugs, marijuana addiction does not cause any known physical withdrawal symptoms that require medication or medical supervision. Some common effects of marijuana withdrawal may be:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Irritation

These symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are generally very mild and do require any medical process or procedure. Symptoms can last from a few days to several months, depending on the individual and severity of their addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a marijuana addiction, please contact us by either taking our confidential online assessment or just call us at 1-800-610-4673 to speak with a trained counselor who will listen to your needs and assist you in exploring treatment options. We are here to help.