Marijuana is a drug that can elicit a wide range of effects, but it is not classified strictly as a hallucinogen. Marijuana is a complex substance and can have depressant, stimulant, or relatively mild hallucinogenic effects depending on the strain, the amount ingested, and the person who uses it. Most of the time, altered perceptions or hallucinations associated with marijuana use are not nearly as intense as other true hallucinogen drugs, such as LSD or “magic” mushrooms.
It may seem counterintuitive that marijuana could be “all of the above.” Still, when considering that cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, which can vary wildly between strains that elicit diverse chemical profiles that can induce different effects between individuals, it makes sense.
Moreover, to classify cannabis as a depressant, stimulant, hallucinogen, or antidepressant may be misleading rather than helpful.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Most individuals who use marijuana do not develop dependence or lose control of their use. They typically use it in amounts and for a length of time in which they initially intended. However, some will eventually exhibit many classic addiction symptoms associated with long-term or excessive marijuana use.
Clearly, marijuana as a drug is not generally life-threatening to use or nearly as hazardous as the use of heroin, cocaine, or meth. But developing an addiction to marijuana is certainly possible and can have unwanted effects on an individual’s health and well-being.
Marijuana’s ability to lead to dependence has been a subject of much debate. Regardless, many chronic users do report withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to discontinue use. Also, there is a psychological component of dependence. People can become emotionally connected to drug use and become fearful regarding what their lives would be like without it.
Classic Addictive Behavior
Just as with other drug abuse issues, individuals who continue to use marijuana despite incurring adverse consequences, by definition, have developed a marijuana use disorder. A person who becomes dependent or addicted to marijuana may present with many of the typical behavioral symptoms of addiction, such as the following:
- Exhibiting a loss of control of substance use
- Needing to use ever-increasing amounts
- Spending significant time thinking about using
- Using in risky or socially inappropriate situations, such as driving
- Denying the assertions of others that a problem exists
- Will continue to use despite financial, legal, or familial issues
- Will become irritable or agitated if they cannot use
Recent studies have shown that tolerance to THC can develop, and withdrawal symptoms will occur in some users. Studies of long-term heavy marijuana users who stop have found that some will experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive salivation
- Decreased pulse rate
Marijuana Addiction Risks
A common misconception that exists is that marijuana use will not lead to adverse physical effects. But just because marijuana dependence isn’t as common or severe as many other substance addictions, this does not mean that the risks do not exist. Several unwanted consequences have been associated with marijuana abuse, such as the following:
- Decreased energy
- Lack of motivation
- Increased heart rate
- Mental impairments
- Lung problems
- Higher heart attack risk
High Potency Factor
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the higher potency marijuana found today may be a significant factor linked to the increasing number of individuals who develop a problem. Cannabis confiscated by law enforcement now contains an average of more than 9 percent THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) compared to 3.7 percent in that which was seized in the 1990s.
Also, marijuana consumed as produced from marijuana extract can contain anywhere from 50-80 percent THC. In fact, experts have been investigating whether these higher potency versions are why there has been an increase in emergency department visits related to marijuana use.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Regardless of whether or not marijuana has become more addictive in recent years, the fact is that the number of individuals seeking professional treatment for marijuana has increased significantly. As with most potentially addictive substances, persons who abuse marijuana often decide to seek help when their use becomes problematic due to repeated adverse consequences.
Just Believe Recovery is a licensed, specialized addiction treatment center designed to be highly-therapeutic and supportive of the recovery process. We offer comprehensive programs with services that include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual/family counseling
- Peer group support
- Substance abuse education
- Health and wellness programs
- Experiential activities
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare planning