As marijuana use becomes legal as a medical option, people are beginning to wonder, what is marijuana?
Marijuana, a powerful hypnotic drug, raises levels of pleasure chemicals in the user’s brain. The flood of chemicals causes extreme pleasure, calmness and may raise or suppress appetite. The drug relaxes some people and energizes others. Repeated drug use causes the brain to adapt to higher levels of chemicals. As a result, the user gets agitated, depressed and uncomfortable when they don’t have the drug. Signs of marijuana use include problems with memory, thinking, reflexes and coordination. Using cannabinoids May contribute to psychosis in the long term. Users most commonly smoke marijuana. Some users ingest cannabinoids in food while others vaporize the oil and inhale it.
What Is Marijuana Use Disorder and Addiction?
Regular use of marijuana usually causes severe addiction that requires ongoing outpatient drug rehab programs. Addicts usually take the drug in larger amounts and for longer periods of time than they intend; wanting to cut down or quit the drug but not being able to; spending a lot of time obtaining the drug; craving or a strong desire to use the drug; repeatedly unable to carry out responsibilities at work, school, or home due to marijuana use; continuing use of the drug despite social problems caused or made worse by use; stopping or reducing important social, work, or fun activities due to using.
Recurrent use of the drug in physically hazardous situations is also a sign of addiction; consistent use of the drug despite knowledge of physical or psychological difficulties from using; physical tolerance as defined by a need for increasing amounts of the drug to achieve intoxication or less effect with continuing use of the drug; and physical withdrawal symptoms or substance use to avoid withdrawal.
Treatment of Marijuana Use Disorder and Addiction
Moderate to severe marijuana use disorder and marijuana addiction usually requires brief detoxification and inpatient treatment at a partner facility, in the beginning, to support quitting. Accordingly, inpatient treatment separates the user from the drug and related stressors and triggers. After initial medical detoxification and inpatient stabilization, levels of care for continued treatment are assessed with six dimensions:
- Acute intoxication or withdrawal potential
- Biomedical conditions and complications
- Emotional, behavioral, or cognitive conditions and complications
- Readiness to change
- Relapse or continued abuse, continued problem potential
- Recovery environment
Based on the severity of the marijuana use disorder AND the findings of the 6-dimension assessment, experts recommend treatment based on levels of care:
- Recovery residences
- Inpatient rehab program
- Outpatient program
- Follow-up and drug monitoring
Experts recommend extended programs with life-skills, coping-skills, dual-disorders and “sober housing” to augment basic treatment. Research shows that the best long term results, when treating marijuana addiction occur by starting with a minimum of 90-days of intensive/primary treatment, before reducing intensity. Afterward, experts usually recommend structured recovery-support for two years, while the brain continues to recover and restore normal functioning.
What Is Marijuana’s Effect on the Brain?
Do you know what it’s like to be distracted by something so much that it was hard for you to stop looking at it? Pre-occupied with hunger and unable to focus on anything but your growling stomach? Stuck in your thoughts about a relationship? Ever just want to “change the channel” but you couldn’t? Yes? Multiply that feeling by 10 or 100. Marijuana addiction is like that, it “hijacks” the reward center of the brain. What is marijuana’s effect on the brain? Think of it this way, eating a meal or being with someone you love feels good, right? Well, just imagine that good feeling . . . now multiply it times 10 . . . now times 100. Imagine how great that would feel.
That’s what using marijuana can feel like to someone that’s addicted. Using the drug elicits extreme and temporary pleasure. It also elicits extreme and lasting mental pre-occupation.
For those that misuse marijuana, the pursuit of that pleasure becomes all-consuming. As a result, pleasure-chemicals supercharge certain brain connections, while the connections between good judgment and behavior become much weaker.
The Defensive Brain
As addiction takes hold, the thinking part of the brain gets pre-occupied with obtaining the “super-pleasure” provided by the drug. The addicted brain responds to the idea of cutting back or quitting the drug as a threat to survival. The using brain quickly dismisses the idea, rationalizing and justifying reasons for continued use. The brain crafts excuses, making continued drug use seem like the right thing to do. Addicts still think. It is just that the thinking and problem-solving part of the addict’s brain becomes more and more driven to figure out how to keep using the drug, no matter what. Eventually, the obsession with using takes over all the brain’s resources.
Final Thoughts: What Is Marijuana?
Trying to quit marijuana feels like a deprivation of food or ending an important relationship. Without proper treatment, structure, and support, most people relapse. The pursuit of the “super-pleasure” is all-consuming. Regular marijuana use changes the brain’s chemistry and structure. But with the right treatment and follow-up, normal brain-function will be restored over time. Contact BoardPrep Recovery Center® for the following programs:
- Men’s and women’s rehab programs
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Young adult rehab program
- Addiction therapy services
- Dual diagnosis treatment
With rigorous treatment, diligent follow-up, and supportive monitoring, lasting recovery becomes possible. Call 866.796.4720 today with any questions about addiction treatment.