Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

With all of the legalization going on and much anticipation on what state will be next, marijuana has been making the news lately. Although there is much re-evaluation about the clinical benefits of marijuana use, there is still a downside to abusing this medicinal herb.

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More About Marijuana

What is Marijuana

Marijuana, also known as cannabis sativa and cannabis indica, is a flowering medicinal plant that originated in Tibet. It was used for centuries to treat a number of ailments, and it grows wild on almost every continent; in modern times, it thrives mainly in the humid, tropical regions of Southeast Asia and South America. Since the quality of wild marijuana is low, a thriving underground culture of hydroponic and indoor cultivation began in order to create newer and more powerful strains.

molecular structure of marijuana and marijuana on a flat surface

It’s widely used for recreational purposes, for worship in some cultures, and to manage a range of health conditions. The varieties known as hemp contain none of the active ingredient, THC, but are used to create products ranging from oil to rope and paper.

The main active ingredients in marijuana are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has psychoactive properties, and cannabidiol compounds (CBD), which have no mind-altering effects. It’s the buds of the cannabis sativa plants that are most prized by marijuana users, but the stems and seeds are also used. There are more than  500 different chemical compounds in marijuana, 100 of which can be classified as cannabidiols.

Marijuana goes by many street names and slang terms, including grass, bud, Mary Jane, weed, pot, and ganja.

Are There Different Kinds of Marijuana?

In addition to dozens of strains of very potent marijuana, several synthetic marijuana blends have made their way to the streets. Although they also adhere to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, these synthetic cannabinoids are not marijuana, and they’re not safe to ingest.

They go by names like Spice, K2, Spike, and other street names. The health risks imposed by fake pot has caused both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to issue warnings and fact sheets.

The most notorious synthetic marijuana products are Spice and K2. People are fooled by the benign nature of fake weed and false advertising into thinking these products are safe, but they are even more powerful than natural marijuana, and much more unpredictable.

Synthetic Marijuana Side Effects Include:

  • Rapid heart rate and palpitations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme agitation
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety and paranoia

They’ve also been known to cause brain swelling and seizures in some users, most of whom are teenagers.

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Is Marijuana Addictive?

Although there is very little chance of becoming physically dependent on marijuana and no known lethal dosage, habitual and long-time users do display classic characteristics of drug addiction. Tolerance for marijuana is also common with chronic use, which means that more weed is needed to produce the same results with continued use.

People usually begin abusing marijuana in high school or college, although the first age of use is becoming younger. A survey conducted in 2015 found that more than 11 million people aged 18 – 25 used marijuana in the previous year. It provides feelings of relaxation and mild euphoria, especially in social settings.

People who are smoking pot on a regular basis often have red, glassy eyes, increased appetites, and poor coordination. Other symptoms vary by the person, the strain of cannabis, and range of experience with the drug, and can include:

  • Inappropriate laughter or giggling
  • Lack of energy and/or motivation
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Panic, anxiety, or paranoia
  • Delayed reaction times and poor motor skills
  • Inability to follow a conversation, such as veering off-topic, rambling, or inattention to what’s being said

Marijuana paraphernalia is also a giveaway to marijuana use. There may be a preoccupation with marijuana-related art and music. Possession of water pipes, rolling papers, and alligator clips, or e-cigarettes used for oil vaping are also common.

Marijuana doesn’t cause a classic drug addiction like heroin, meth, or cocaine, although chronic use does affect the way the brain functions. Heavy users can become psychologically dependent even if there is no physical dependency.

The Signs of Marijuana Addiction are:

  • Preoccupation with finding or smoking marijuana
  • Legal or financial problems
  • Cravings for marijuana and by-products
  • Continued use despite legal, social, employment, or family problems due to use
  • Inability to quit or cut-down on marijuana use despite repeated attempts

How is Marijuana Ingested?

The most traditional and still-prevalent way to use is by smoking marijuana in joints, blunts, and pipes. However, marijuana legalization and a drive to find more healthy ways of ingesting pot have led to innovations in how it’s used. There are also new forms of THC and CBD on the market that are based on oil extraction and concentration. Marijuana dabs are becoming more popular, for example.

This is a method of smoking resin made from extracting the oil. It comes in several forms, including a thick, honey-like oil, a variety called Wax that’s about the consistency of lip balm, or a hard amber form called “Shatter”. There are also candies, cookies, and teas available that require no smoking or paraphernalia.

Where is Marijuana Legal?

Marijuana legalization has been hotly debated between proponents and those who oppose it for years. The drug was first criminalized in the United States in 1938, and it remains illegal under federal law via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, legal prosecution is prohibited under the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment as long as individuals comply with state laws regarding use and possession.

It’s classified as a Schedule I substance despite growing evidence of medicinal benefits. Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have now deemed marijuana legal for medical use. Several states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands have legalized it for recreational use for adults over the age of 21; 13 others and the US Virgin Islands have decriminalized recreational use.

The States Where Marijuana is Legal for Recreational Use:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • California
  • Michigan
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Several cannabinoid-based drugs have received FDA approval, including Cesamet, Epidiolex, Marinol, and Syndros. There is also a thriving eCommerce business and local market for edible products with or without THC content.

What Conditions Can be Treated With Medical Marijuana?

Marijuana for medicinal use is divided into two categories, THC-based and CBD. It has been found useful for treating chronic pain and conditions like fibromyalgia, MS, some cancers, anxiety, and combating nausea. Marijuana has also shown promise for controlling seizures resulting from epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Is There a Downside to Legalization?

That depends on whom is answering the question. Advocates state that marijuana legalization allows people who need it for pain relief access to beneficial medications without fear of legal consequences. Legalizing it allows the drug to be regulated and dispensed under specific conditions. Opponents care concerned that legalization will make the drug more readily available to children and create another category of drug addicts. There is also concern about the health effects of smoking marijuana and from second-hand smoke.