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Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

1. Introduction 

Most marijuana users won’t agree, but marijuana is actually addictive. It usually starts as what is known as marijuana use disorder, which later develops into a form of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 30% of marijuana users have some degree of marijuana use disorder.

Yes, most cases don’t end in addiction when it comes to marijuana use disorder but rather feel a form of dependence on the substance. 

The below information is useful to those that feel they or someone they love struggles with marijuana dependence or addiction, or anyone interested in learning more about the substance in general. 

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2. What Is Marijuana

The term ‘marijuana’ usually refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant, known to contain the psychoactive chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The plant also comes in concentrated forms known as hashish and resins known as hash oil. It also includes 500 other chemicals, including others related to THC. 

It is now, at the very least, decriminalized in almost every state in America, but that doesn’t change the fact that it can have some serious adverse effects when abused by the user. This is especially true for those young enough that their brains aren’t even done developing yet. 

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3. What Marijuana Looks, Smells, and Tastes Like

Marijuana in herb form can range from all different shades of green, with hints of brown, orange, and even purple mixed in. It comes in buds still attached to a stem or crushed down off the stem (shake) and can also range in moisture levels making it either really sticky or really dry and crumbly. 

The smells of herb marijuana also vary from strain to strain but typically is known for “smelling like a skunk,” which is where one of the street names comes from. People don’t necessarily eat marijuana unless it is cooked into food because, on its own, it has a rather earthy or dirty taste. 

Marijuana concentrates can range from an oil appearance to a diamond or rock appearance and everything in between. 

The colors also vary from different shades of brown, yellow, and golden. Sometimes, it might even appear yellow and white. Concentrate isn’t meant to be tasted and doesn’t really have an appealing taste anyway. The smell can range depending on the strain. There are citrus and floral strains that smell of oranges and flowers, for example. 

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4. How Marijuana Works

Regardless of how it is consumed, the THC chemical reacts with the brain receptors on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) nerve terminals, which increased dopamine levels. It works similarly to other addictive opioids. The reaction happens almost instantly and usually lasts a couple of hours. Most people refer to this as ‘being high.’ 

There are three distinct categories of marijuana:

  • Indica 
  • Sativa
  • Hybrid (A mixture of Indica and Sativa)

Many people believe each group has distinct effects on the mind. Sativa marijuana strains are known in mainstream marijuana culture to energize the mind and body to make one more productive, while Indica strains are notorious for landing you “in da couch” because they calm the mind and body. 

Then there are the hybrids, which are usually known for being a good mixture of both types of effects. However, the cannabinoid and terpene chemical compounds in the strain are what determine its effects on the brain, not necessarily the distinct category the plant is from.  

Potency levels also play a big role in how marijuana works. Confiscated samples of marijuana suggest that there has been a steady increase in the potency of the substance within the last few decades. 

For example, the average THC content of confiscated samples wasn’t even 4%. Now, THC levels are usually around 15%, and that is just from the flower/herb form of the plant. Those that buy and smoke concentrates are getting higher levels of THC.  

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5. What Marijuana Is Called On the Street

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. There is an endless list of street names for this substance, and many of them are well-known, including two of the most common, Weed’ and ‘Pot.’ 

Some of the other common street names for marijuana are: 

  • Mary Jane
  • Bud 
  • Ganja 
  • Herb 
  • Chronic
  • Grass 
  • Dope
  • Tree(s)
  • Collard Greens
  • Cannabliss 
  • Reefer
  • Skunk
  • Hemp 
  • Hash 
  • Resin 
  • Concentrate
  • Oil 
  • Wax 
  • Budder 
  • Shatter 
  • Indica 
  • Sativa 

There are also street names for those that consume marijuana, including ‘Pothead’ and ‘Stoner.’ 

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6. How Marijuana Is Used and Abused

For starters, there are many different ways that people use marijuana. One can choose to roll it into a paper or cigarette (joint) and smoke it. They can also empty out a cigar and roll that paper up with marijuana or a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. It can be smoked out of a water pipe (bong) or dry pipe (bowl). 

Concentrate is usually smoked out of a water pipe but has to be burned at a higher temperature, so a blow torch is usually used in the heating process. Herb and concentrate can both be placed in a vape pen and vaped as well. 

That’s not all, though. Users can also choose to slow cook herb with oil to make a butter for cooking, or they can use the flower, stems, and seeds in water to make a tea. 

Marijuana use typically turns into abuse when the user smokes all the time. They start planning their schedule around when they will get to smoke and often will smoke more than they need to just to see how high they can get. This territory is where users need to be careful because their abuse could easily turn into addiction at this point. It’s important to be aware that Marijuana is an example of a soft drug, which often leads to use of more potent and dangerous substances.

Another danger of marijuana is the growing prevalence of laced weed. Read our online resource to discover what people lace weed with, and the serious dangers.

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7. Symptoms and Consequences of Marijuana 

Marijuana use is notoriously known across mainstream cannabis culture to calm the body and mind. It is also used to and relieve aches, pains, and mental anxieties. However, these same symptoms can turn into consequences when one starts abusing marijuana. Not only that, but marijuana doesn’t cause the same effects for everyone. It highly depends on the person, their health, their mental health, their environment, their past with other drugs and alcohol, what they are used to, and even what they expect. Whether or not the person was sober before using marijuana also plays a role in the symptoms and consequences. 

Common symptoms associated with marijuana use are: 

  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Constant mucus build-up
  • Phlegmy cough 
  • Dry mouth
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue 
  • Poor memory 
  • Poor coordination 
  • Slow reaction time

The above-stated symptoms are the most commonly known and often what marijuana users joke around about when using the substance. However, there are long-term health risks associated with this substance as well. some of these risks are similar to those experienced by tobacco smokers, like: 

  • Constant phlegm production 
  • Daily cough 
  • Kills brain cells
  • Damages to the central nervous system 
  • Increased risk of lung infection 
  • Damages to the immune system 
  • Acute chest illness 
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Fertility issues 

Those are just the physical consequences. There are also mental consequences associated with marijuana abuse and addiction, including: 

  • Lack of motivation 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Personality disturbances 

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8. Abuse, Overdose, and Fatality Statistics 

Marijuana abuse usually results because the highest density of cannabinoid receptors are located in the parts of the brain known to influence memory, thinking, concentration, pleasure, sensory and time perception, and coordination. Marijuana over-activates the endocannabinoid system, causing the ‘high’ feeling, and abusers often feel other effects. 

Someone that suffers from marijuana abuse and addiction might experience:

  • Altered perceptions
  • Changed mood or moodiness 
  • Impaired and slowed coordination 
  • Cognitive impairment 
  • Difficulty problem-solving 
  • Difficulty recollecting memories 
  • Difficulty learning new things
  • Decreased appetite 

While a fatal overdose is highly unlikely, an overdose is still possible, especially in children that accidentally found marijuana. Children getting into their parents’ marijuana stash isn’t unheard of either. According to this study, in the states where cannabis use is legal, there’s a higher risk of unintentional cannabis overdose injuries among children. 

Typically, it isn’t the drug that causes direct harm. It is the person’s reaction to the drug that causes the ‘overdose injury.’ In 2014, there were 2,047 calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), and 37 were classified as have major adverse effects resulting in one death. Of course, there is still a chance that some people experience these effects and never call poison control. 

When fentanyl and marijuana are combined, such as in laced weed, it can easily result in overdose. There is a helpful method to determine if weed is laced with fentanyl- you can buy fentanyl test strips locally or online. It’s important to be vigilant when dealing with weed.

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9. Detox and Treatment at Avenues Recovery

Drug detox treatment programs for marijuana are rather similar to any other drug or alcohol addiction. The person will go in for treatment and first be assessed to see if there are other underlying drug or alcohol addictions and how serious the marijuana addiction is. Then, there are 12-step programs, cognitive-behavioral therapies, and others that have proven to be effective on marijuana addiction. 

Whether the person chooses to go through formal rehab for their marijuana addiction is up to them. There usually aren’t major (life-threatening) withdrawal symptoms felt, but the person is still encouraged to seek recovery help as it can be a long and difficult process to navigate. 

Marijuana may be the most commonly used illicit drug in the US, but that doesn’t make it any less serious of an opioid substance, especially for those with past addictions.  At Avenues Recovery, our treatment professionals will help you map out a plan for sobriety that will last.

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