Marijuana Addiction Treatment and Recovery Help

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. A dry, shredded green/brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, it usually is smoked as a cigarette (joint, nail), or in a pipe (bong). It also is smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana, often in combination with another drug. Use also might include mixing marijuana in food or brewing it as a tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form it is called hashish and, as a sticky black liquid, hash oil. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor. There are countless street terms for marijuana including pot, herb, weed, grass, widow, ganja, and hash.

  • Although there are roughly 400 chemicals in marijuana, the main chemical that produces a “high” is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).
  • Marijuana looks like dried green/brown leaves, seeds and stems from the hemp (cannabis sativa) plant.
  • Most users smoke marijuana from a pipe (bong), cigar (blunt), or cigarette (joint). It can also be mixed in food or brewed in drinks.
  • Marijuana is the most abused illegal drug in the U.S.

Common street names for marijuana are Pot, Grass, Herb, Weed, Ganja, Hash, Gangster, Mary Jane, Reefer, Chronic, Skunk and Boom.

The active chemical in marijuana, THC, binds to cannabinoid receptors on brain cells, which are mostly concentrated in the pleasure, thinking, sensory and movement centers of the brain. Because of this impact on the brain, marijuana abuse can result in the following side effects:

  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions and solving problems
  • Distorted perceptions
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Problems with learning and memory
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Respiratory problems and greater risk of lung infections
  • Paranoia
  • Depressed mood
  • Acute psychosis (including hallucinations, delusions and loss of identity)

Research shows that marijuana increases the user’s heart rate by 20 to 100 percent for up to three hours after smoking. Studies confirm that people who drive while high on marijuana have slower reaction times and impaired judgment, putting them at greater risk for accidents and DUI (driving under the influence).

Chronic marijuana use has also been associated with a variety of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Users also self-report less education, life satisfaction and career success.

Research suggests that roughly 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana. Those who start using marijuana at a young age or who use the drug every day are more likely to become addicted (up to 50 percent of users).

Long-term marijuana use carries many of the characteristics of addiction, such as spending large amounts of time and money to get more of the drug and continuing to abuse marijuana despite negative consequences. In addition, marijuana addicts who try to quit may experience the following withdrawal symptoms for up to two weeks after stopping:

  • Anxiety
  • Drug cravings
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
Marijuana accounts for hundreds of thousands of admissions to addiction treatment facilities, particularly among young men who started using at an early age. Marijuana addiction can be treated in outpatient and inpatient programs, often using behavioral interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.