What is Marijuana?
Marijuana, one of the most famed natural drugs, has exploded in popularity in the last few decades. Having a culture all its own, it currently dances between the blurred lines of legality throughout the majority of the United States. Marijuana has many nicknames – weed or pot being the most prevalent. But what is it really?
Usually, marijuana refers to the greenish leaves and flowers of Cannabis. When inhaled or ingested in various ways, it produces a psychoactive effect that causes intoxication. The chemical responsible for the various mind-altering effects is most commonly known as THC. THC is found throughout the plant’s leaves, flowers, buds and resin.
Marijuana Use Disorder
While most people believe that addiction to marijuana is not possible, this is not actually true. While addiction to the substance is not as dramatic or intense as something like crack or meth, about 10% of people who regularly use marijuana will develop a physical dependence. Others who use regularly will experience physical discomfort or some withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.
Usually marijuana is considered a “harmless” drug, however, we often forget that anything that is abused can be harmful— despite the details of the actual substance. There are no harmless drug and even marijuana can produce after effects that range from mild to serious if overused over a long period of time.
Some Side Effects of Overusing Marijuana Include:
- Distorted Perception
- Poor Coordination
- Impaired Memory and Problem Solving
- Deep Cough
- Poor Reaction Time
It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these symptoms. Our body’s react to things very differently. Some individuals may never experience paranoia, for example, while others may feel it any time they use marijuana.
As you have likely heard, marijuana can be a beneficial treatment for certain conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and especially epilepsy. More and more, medicinal uses are found for marijuana. With that being said, marijuana should never be a primary form of treatment, and should only be used in a medical context as an additional treatment to more traditional healthcare. Utilizing marijuana supplements for medicinal purposes should always be overseen by a doctor, as it should with any type of medication.
Most people who use marijuana, are abusing or misusing the substance. This means the users are chasing the high from marijuana and are not seeking any medicinal benefit whatsoever. Typically, people who are simply trying to get high will utilize marijuana by smoking it or ingesting it. Once THC enters the body, it will quickly find its way to the brain and affects the parts of our mind that influence memory, concentration, pleasure and time perception.
Other Effects of Abuse
Aside from the mental impairing effects of marijuana, overusing or misusing the drug can cause physical damage, too. Smoking anything can actually lead to bronchitis due to putting so many chemicals directly into the lungs. Weed is absolutely not an exception. Incidentally, a joint of marijuana delivers far more potentially carcinogenic “tar” than a regular cigarette. Overuse can cause emotional impact as well, leading to withdrawal from hobbies or friends who are not involved in drug culture. Because it alters the way you experience food, activities and other pleasures, many users struggle to enjoy the things they once loved without the influence of marijuana.
Signs of Marijuana Use
Some of the common calling cards of marijuana abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Red Eyes
- Overeating Unhealthy Foods
- Lack of Performance in School or Work
- Withdrawing from Friends and Family
- Making Marijuana Use a Primary Hobby
- Becoming Overly Involved in Drug Culture
- Spending Excessive Amounts of Money on Marijuana
If you notice any of these behaviors in yourself or a loved one, it is possible that marijuana abuse is taking place.
It may be hard for a cannabis user to overcome denial, because the drug impairs judgement and prevents the user from gaining any useful insight into his feelings or behavior. Coupled with the misconception of there being no addictive properties, this makes it a challenge to want help. However, recovery after abstinence may be quicker than it is from alcohol or other substances, with rapid improvement in alertness and mental acuity. It’s been described as “coming out of a fog.”
Unfortunately, as with other substances, there are some withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana use.
- Reduced Appetite
- Fevers, Chills and Sweating
Young Adults and Marijuana Use
Other aspects of marijuana addiction recovery may be a challenge. Since marijuana is often a young person’s drug, therapists have to work to encourage abstinence without severing the user’s connection to his peers and their culture. If you are a teenage user of marijuana who has decided to quit, you will need to be open minded and patient through this process, to accept the fact your counselors are not “against” you and your friends but are trying to prevent you from ruining your life with continued substance use.
You will be helped to find ways of enhancing your self-esteem, of solving your problems in other ways besides using marijuana, and to discover other, more satisfying and rewarding activities. Your counselors may want to do periodic urine tests during any outpatient rehabilitation. Don’t resent it; it is a mark of success if your tests are negative and a sign to your counselors that you need more help if the tests are positive. These drug tests are an added form of accountability, which is a vital factor of a strong recovery. You will be advised to find new friends and stay away from anybody who uses marijuana or other drugs. This may seem extreme and you may think it’s impossible, but the fact is that continued association with pot-smokers is almost guaranteed to make you go back, and continued pot smoking far too often is followed by a switch to heavier drugs.
In treatment, you should be made to feel that someone will be available for you to talk to if you’re having unusual stress or if you feel in danger of relapse. The point is to get the support you need in a positive way, and not to seek out drugs or the drug-using crowd for the illusion of support.
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