The legalization of marijuana in many states has made its use more common, thereby increasing the value of understanding the symptoms of marijuana addiction, what can happen when one stops its use (“detoxes”) and the treatment options that can help those who find they can’t stop without experiencing undesirable symptoms.
The National Institute of on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that about 9 percent of people who use marijuana regularly will develop an addiction to the drug in time. And that risk rises to 17 percent if users start a marijuana habit during the teen years. That figure rises to 25-50 percent in those who use the drug every day.
You are likely struggling with a marijuana addiction if you can’t stop using the drug, even when it interferes with your daily routine. According to NIDA, being addicted to marijuana makes it harder to stay focused and learn new things. It can also affect your memory and increase forgetfulness.
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, attaches itself to receptors in the brain, triggering chemical reactions associated with bliss and relaxation. Given this biochemical manipulation, the brain resists that process by turning off or shutting down the receptors. The brain is, in other words, altered by marijuana. In time, the brain will function at an optimal level only when there’s marijuana available.
Research shows when people develop an addiction, they can experience irritability and restlessness when they try to stop marijuana use. They also can develop deep cravings for marijuana that can interrupt their sleep, their work, and their hobbies. Those with a marijuana addiction can struggle to meet friends, interact with family, or otherwise have social interactions unless they’ve used the drug first. They feel, at a deep level, that they need marijuana in order to handle day-to-day life, and that psychological addiction can be hard to overcome.
Since marijuana is legal in some states and often sentiments about it may include “it’s natural” and “it’s a harmless substance,” it can be more difficult to know when to seek help with detoxing and treatment for an addiction to marijuana. The Mayo Clinic has listed the following symptoms as indications of possible dependency on marijuana:
- Cravings for the drug
- Tolerance for the drug, which leads to higher doses of drugs
- Hoarding the drug
- Spending money that should go to household expenses on drugs
- Cutting back on work, hobbies, or social activities in order to use
- Taking risks while under the influence
- Failed attempts to stop use
- A need to use the drug regularly, either daily or several times per day
If you sense you have a dependency on marijuana, seeking help is the first right step. Attempting to stop the use of marijuana and detoxing on your own is not advised, given the lack of support (which is so typically needed) and the frequency of failure widely cited. Addictions professionals at a treatment center can offer invaluable guidance and support to assist you with detoxing from marijuana safely and effectively, helping you to overcome the dependency you’re facing. Whether you choose an inpatient facility or outpatient program, getting help early is the best option to avoid the long-term consequences of marijuana addiction.
A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (a branch of the National Institutes for Health) titled, “Marijuana Dependency and its Treatment,” indicated that positive outcomes can be engendered or supported by use of therapy. “Seven published, randomized efficacy trials for primary adult marijuana abuse and dependence have consistently demonstrated that outpatient treatments can reduce marijuana consumption and engender abstinence.
The therapeutic modalities used in the study to overcome addiction are listed below:
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) teaches you self-motivation techniques to quickly stop using marijuana.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or “talk therapy,” encourages you to change how you think so you stop using marijuana. You will gain self-control to fight the urge to use marijuana. The therapist might also work on correcting other problems (such as anxiety or trouble sleeping) which sometimes happen when you try to quit using marijuana.
Contingency management (CM) is another type of therapy in which you set goals and earn rewards for staying drug-free. It also removes rewards if you suddenly start using marijuana.
This study’s cumulative findings indicated that: “(1) each of these interventions represents a reasonable and efficacious treatment approach; (2) the combination of MET and CBT is probably more potent than MET alone; and (3) an intervention that integrates all three approaches—MET, CBT, and CM— is most likely to produce positive outcomes, especially as measured by rates of abstinence from marijuana.”
There are two bits of “good news” for those with a dependency on marijuana: #1 – recovery is possible; and #2 – since detoxing and establishing a new life without the use of marijuana most often requires help, it’s good to know help is available at treatment centers in every state.
It’s important to remember those with a marijuana addiction are not weak, bad or wrong – they have a medical condition, a disease that responds to treatment and recovery is possible. By taking the proper steps forward—getting professional support to detox and treat their addiction with medical and therapeutic assistance—they can be freed from their dependency and their lives can be restored to new levels of health and well-being.