Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant and is a psychoactive (mind-altering) drug that slows down your response and gives you a calm “high” that borders on euphoric. Although marijuana has been legalized in several states and is used for medicinal purposes, there is still a risk of addiction. Its street names include weed, pot, grass, bud, Mary Jane, and various other slang terms. The main psychoactive chemical in the drug that’s responsible for the intoxicating effects is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s found in the leaves and buds of the mainly female plant. In total, marijuana has over 500 other chemicals.
According to recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 30 percent of those who use marijuana could have some form of marijuana use disorder. For people who use before the age of 18, there is a 4 to 7 times greater chance of developing the disorder than adults. In the U.S., researchers estimated that 4 million people met the criteria for marijuana use disorder in 2015. Only 138,000 sought treatment voluntarily. The use disorder can transition into an addiction when the person is unable to stop using the drug — even when it interferes with their daily lives.
As with many other things, genetics plays a substantial role in who will become addicted to marijuana or other drugs. Studies of identical twins raised in different households support this position. It was found that they have higher rates of an addiction co-occurring, meaning if one develops an addiction, the other is highly likely to develop one too, than fraternal twins raised apart. This could work in people’s favor, though, as family ties can help people avoid the progression into addiction.
Responsibility skills is another working theory. If people have jobs and families, they’re less likely to turn to addictive substances like marijuana. If they have healthy self-esteem and respect, along with a social network, they won’t need to turn to drugs typically. Those who don’t have many options may also turn to drugs and those who have had trauma that led to PTSD, such as combat experience or abuse. Drug use helps them take leave of their emotions and feelings. Environmental influences may also play a huge role in developing an addiction, as well as mental illness.
For example, an estimated 50 to 50 percent of people addicted to marijuana have a co-occurring mental disorder. The majority have:
In the beginning, marijuana offers these people a benefit, making the world more interesting to counter the loss of depression. It also helps calm anxiety and shuts down the process where dreams form in the brain, eliminating nightmares for those with PTSD.
It’s important for those addicted to marijuana to get treatment, either in a residential care facility or with the help of a medical professional. Detoxification and withdrawal is the process of getting clean and resetting your brain to not rely on the drug. Counseling and skills development is used to help those individuals cope with life’s challenges and stress. Appropriately done, addicts can overcome their tolerance and avoid relapses with learned behaviors and skills.