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Marijuana Symptoms and Signs

Posted in Marijuana Addiction Treatment on November 1, 2016
Last modified on April 21st, 2019

Controversy over the safety and legality of marijuana has existed for a long time. Marijuana is addictive, and overuse can lead to problems, but there is evidence that alcohol is more harmful to brain health. These and other arguments have led to the legalization of marijuana in many states. However, marijuana does have the potential to be harmful for people who are unable to give the drug up.

Marijuana Dependence and Addiction

Many people can use marijuana from time to time without negative effects, but the risk of addiction does exist for some. Researchers found that up to 30% of marijuana users risk developing a marijuana use disorder.

Is marijuana a “gateway drug?” People who use marijuana are more likely to use other drugs, including alcohol, than non-users are. This means some marijuana users are more at risk of co-occurring disorders, such as marijuana abuse and alcoholism.

It’s also true that both nicotine and alcohol have the same “gateway” effect as marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, whether marijuana acts as a “gateway” depends more on the person than the drug itself. Many marijuana users don’t start using other drugs, but some do progress to stronger substances after using marijuana.

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Use

The effects you feel when you use marijuana depend a lot on you as an individual. They might be different than what a friend experiences. Because marijuana exaggerates emotional responses, even a slightly upsetting event can feel much worse than it is. The first euphoria or relaxation that marijuana causes can easily turn into anxiety or paranoia.

Common signs of marijuana use include:

  • Feelings of euphoria, relaxation, confusion or drowsiness
  • Heightened senses, including sight, sound and taste
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite or food cravings
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Impaired coordination
  • Reduced ability to focus
  • Impaired memory
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety, fear, panic or paranoia

Long-Term Marijuana Side Effects

Long-term or chronic marijuana use can lead to negative health and cognitive side effects:

  • Chronic cough and increased susceptibility to respiratory infection (for marijuana smokers)
  • Decreased mental function
  • Memory impairment

The impact of marijuana on the brain is greatest in children and teens who use the drug. For adults, the danger is lower because brain development is mostly completed by the early 20s. Adults who are heavy long-term users can still experience negative side effects.

What Is Marijuana Addiction?

Marijuana use becomes abuse or addiction when you are unable to control your use. If you’re addicted to marijuana, you might do some of the following:

  • Spend a lot of time getting or using marijuana
  • Spend a lot of time recovering from using marijuana
  • Neglect work, home or relationships because of marijuana use
  • Use marijuana in potentially dangerous situations, or in ways that lead to risky behavior
  • Use marijuana even if it causes problems with relationships, health or other parts of life
  • Want to stop using marijuana, but are unable to

Marijuana Overuse and Overdose

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fatal overdoses of marijuana are rare. This doesn’t mean marijuana is harmless, as the physical strain of a large dose on your body can be dangerous. For instance, people who have cardiovascular disease have a temporarily increased risk of heart attack after using marijuana.

Signs of marijuana overdose include:

  • Anxiety, paranoia or panic
  • Extreme confusion
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting

These side effects are distressing, but temporary. They wear off when the drug does. A small number of people do experience lasting harm from using marijuana.

There has been an increase in the number of people visiting emergency rooms as a result of marijuana use. One reason is that more people are using edible marijuana products. The effects of marijuana edibles take longer to start than they do when you smoke the drug. This leads some people to take more marijuana, thinking the first dose didn’t work.

Another reason for more emergency room visits may be that the potency of marijuana has increased in the past several decades. In the early 1990s, the average THC content of marijuana was around 3.8%. By 2014, it had increased to 12.2%.

Getting Treatment for Marijuana Abuse and Addiction

Some treatments for marijuana addiction include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – This therapy helps people replace harmful thoughts, beliefs and behavior patterns with new healthy ones.
  • Contingency management – This therapy motivates quitting by providing rewards for abstinence.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy – You’re encouraged to engage your own internal motivation in order to quit the drug.

You can access these therapies and other help through inpatient and outpatient programs at addiction treatment facilities like The Right Step. Addiction experts can help you quit marijuana, even if you have a co-occurring disorder (dual diagnosis), like depression or anxiety.

You Can Quit Marijuana

Even though marijuana isn’t as highly physically addictive as cocaine or heroin, it’s not always easy to stop. You can do it. It’s always worthwhile to take control of a drug addiction and take your life back.

If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana problems, call The Right Step today at 844-877-1781 about marijuana abuse treatment, and find out how we can help.

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

The Right Step