Marijuana Signs of Use and Side Effects

Marijuana is the most abused drug in the US, with 94 million individuals admitting to experimenting at least once. The drug remains illegal on a federal level, and it’s still classed as a Schedule I drug. Despite the fact that 33 states have now legalized it for medical purposes and there’s a push for nation-wide recreational legalization, there are many drawbacks to habitual marijuana use.

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Signs of Marijuana Use

Some may find it hard to believe that people can become addicted to marijuana. After all, it’s just a medicinal herb like echinacea, right? However, marijuana abuse statistics are off the charts, and concerns about marijuana addiction have risen since the push toward total legalization began.

What is Marijuana Abuse?

Even if someone is very discrete, there are several signs that someone is using marijuana. One of the first is keeping paraphernalia and accessories like alligator clips, pipes, rolling papers, and incense or air freshener around. Some of these items may be benign on their own but found together, they point to at least occasional pot smoking.

There are also behavioral and physical signs of marijuana use. Suspicions can be aroused by observing symptoms and behavior like:

  • Red, glassy eyes or carrying Vi-sine around
  • Binge eating, especially sweets
  • Shirking responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Hanging out with a new group of friends
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Confusion or forgetfulness
  • Sudden lack of coordination
  • Financial or legal problems

The high from marijuana may be felt as soon as five minutes after smoking or up to two hours if taking an edible form of THC, and it will last for about four to eight hours. The length of the high depends on the method of use and the strength of the herb. Candies and cookies are milder and take longer to feel the effects. Vaping pure cannabis oil will hit sooner, and the effects can last longer than smoking the bud.

  • There are other factors that can alter the effects of marijuana, including:
  • The age, health, and emotional stability of the user
  • The length of use and level of marijuana tolerance
  • The environment while using
  • Other substances used with marijuana; for example, smoking will increase the effects of drinking alcohol or taking a hallucinogen

What Are the Signs That Someone is Addicted to Marijuana?

As with many mind-altering substances, there is a fine line between casual use and marijuana addiction. Some signs of marijuana use are also early symptoms of abuse and/or dependence.

Smoking marijuana on a regular basis leads to tolerance quickly. That means it’s necessary to smoke more at each session to get the same high. Dependence and addiction can happen separately or together, and one can be dependent without becoming addicted. Drug dependence simply means that the drug is necessary for the user to function. Addiction is more insidious and harder to kick.

Research indicates that between 9 and 30 percent of habitual users develop classic signs of substance use disorder. Those who start smoking marijuana in adolescence are up to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder.

Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

  • An obsessive craving for smoking or ingesting pot
  • An inability to quit using despite repeated attempts or negative consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms when denied access to marijuana
  • Avoiding parties or gatherings where marijuana use isn’t allowed
  • Spending free time searching for or buying marijuana

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Are There Side Effects When Using Marijuana?

The effects of smoking marijuana happen very fast. Within minutes of taking a hit off a joint or pipe, the THC passes through the lungs and into the bloodstream, where it’s carried to the brain and other organs. When ingesting marijuana in an edible form, the process is carried out through the digestive system instead, and the effects are slower to metabolize. Some marijuana side effects due to inhaling smoke, like coughing and lung inflammation, are avoided this way.

There are few known side effects of using marijuana to relieve pain or other medical symptoms. In fact, it may be safer for pain relief than more powerful addictive drugs like opioids. Passive exposure from being around marijuana smoke is unlikely in a confined space, but the jury is still out on the effects of second-hand marijuana smoke. It should never be used in the presence of children.

Short Term Effects of Using Marijuana

Other side effects of smoking marijuana can range from mild to severe, depending on the strength of the weed, the amount and frequency of use, and the level of tolerance. There are several short term effects of using marijuana, and they include:

  • Altered perceptions of time and reality
  • Difficulty concentrating or operating machinery
  • Paranoia or unfounded fears
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Short-term memory problems and confusion
  • Anxiety and panic

Some research indicates that memory, learning abilities, and attention span may be affected for up to 24 hours after last use. What does that mean for the affect on long-term or heavy users?

Long Term Effects of Marijuana

One startling statistic relates to the long term effects of marijuana when use begins in adolescence and how it lowers the IQ up to eight points. Since the portion of the brain that controls decision-making and impulse control isn’t fully developed until the early 20s, brain development may be affected as well. Physical effects include breathing problems, increased heart rate, and developmental problems in unborn children.

People who are chronic marijuana users of any age tend to have lower life satisfaction in general. In fact, those who smoke or use frequently exhibit poor mental and physical health, and they have more problems sustaining relationships. Since many employers, court offices, and some social agencies perform drug tests, abusing marijuana can affect jobs, benefits, and even freedom.

The effects of marijuana use are less severe than with destructive and highly addictive substances. However, that doesn’t mean that it is completely safe to use or free from problems associated with chronic use, dependence, and addiction. Fortunately, help is available for those who want to stop using.