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Can I Become Addicted to Marijuana?

Embark Behavioral Health
March 9, 2020

Marijuana is more commonplace than ever before, especially since there are so many places where it is now legal to carry and use for recreational purposes. Despite the fact that it is still not legal for those under the age of 21 to use marijuana, more adolescents are using it than ever before, too. However, many use it without understanding the consequences. One of those consequences is addiction. But can you actually become addicted to marijuana?

Addicted to Marijuana

The answer to that question is yes. Absolutely, you can become addicted to marijuana. In fact, depending on which studies you read, about nine percent of adults who use marijuana will become addicted. Addiction to marijuana happens when your brain needs the drug, and you are willing to do anything to get it, regardless of consequences. In fact, even when your usage of and need for the drug merely impacts your ability to function daily, you may be addicted. A lot of people are not aware that you actually can become addicted to pot, and with it being available in so many forms, including edibles, there is an increase in usage without an increase in knowledge about the drug and what it can do to you. 

Dependent on Marijuana

Some people do not quite become addicted to marijuana; instead they become dependent upon marijuana. The difference is that your brain is still slightly changed by the drug, and you still experience withdrawal symptoms upon quitting marijuana. These symptoms can last up to two weeks, and include decreased appetite, restlessness, irritability, sleep disruption, changes in moods, and other physical discomforts. It is estimated that up to 30 percent of adults who use the drug develop a dependency on marijuana. However, unlike addiction, you are able to quit, you just have to endure a detoxification period of about two weeks.

Using Marijuana Too Young

There are a lot more consequences besides dependency or addiction when you use marijuana in adolescence. One consequence is that according to the article linked above, you are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana dependency or addiction if you begin using the drug before the age of 18. This would suggest that it is highly addictive for adolescents. Additionally, there are studies that show that marijuana can cause both short and long-term harm to your brain if you use it as a teenager. Some of the harmful side effects include harm to memory, learning, reasoning, thinking, problem solving, attention, and decision making. There is also an actual decrease in grey matter in the brains of those who use marijuana, particularly those who started using during their teenage years. Your brain is also still forming important connections at this age, and using this drug can prevent those connections from ever forming. Marijuana can literally change the structure and function of your brain, especially if you use it too young. One of the short-term factors associated with marijuana use include links with increased depression, anxiety, and even suicide risks. There are other short-term risks, such as uncontrollable vomiting, and tachycardia (rapid heart rate.) Some of these symptoms will send people to the Emergency Room or even require hospitalization. Although marijuana is legal in many areas, it is not yet regulated, and this means some people may ingest too much without realizing the dangers.

Using Medical Marijuana

What about medical marijuana? Is it addictive? Actually, medical marijuana is usually Cannabidiol, more commonly called CBD oil. This is actually derived from the hemp plant, and does not contain THC, the primary active drug in marijuana. So CBD oil does not produce the “high” that marijuana does, but rather offers more healing properties. CBD oil is commonly used to treat seizures, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. The oil is prescribed by and supervised by a medical doctor, and is often used to treat patients who have tried everything else. Medical marijuana is also not regulated yet, and there are still many things to be learned about it. However, without the THC, it is not addictive, and it does not cause the harm to your brain during adolescence that marijuana can.

Intensity of the Drug

Another factor in using marijuana is the intensity and potency of the drug itself. Because the drug is plant-based, it is more difficult to control the potency than drugs which are manufactured. There is not yet any government oversight on marijuana yet, either, so you cannot really know exactly what you are putting in your body. A study in 2014 showed that marijuana which was tested that year was more than three times more potent than marijuana previously tested in the 1990’s. The drug is getting a lot more potent. Even if you ingest less marijuana to compensate for the higher potency, there is no proof that concept actually works for your health. Studies are needed to determine how severely the potency impacts you short and long-term. Can you become addicted to marijuana? Definitely. Are there many other short and long-term side effects? Absolutely. Marijuana may be legal in many places, but it is not legal for those under the age of 21, and with good reason. There are so many dangers to your brain now and later when you use marijuana so young. Dependence and addiction are just the beginning of the dangers you face.

Get help with marijuana addiction by calling Embark Behavioral Health 1-855-809-0409 today. You can learn how to free yourself from addiction and find healing.

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Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of mental health treatment centers, for young people, that is dedicated to reversing the trends of anxiety, depression and suicide by 2028. Our therapists are experts at engaging with teens and helping entire families heal and rebuild.