Marijuana Addiction

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Marijuana Addiction

There is a blaring misconception about the use of marijuana in today’s society. Many people think marijuana is not an addictive drug. It is commonly assumed that a person can use marijuana on a regular basis without being at risk of developing a dependence on using. This assumption is incorrect. Marijuana addiction is possible. The more a person uses marijuana, the higher the risk is for addiction.

Currently, an estimated 4 million people currently suffer from marijuana addiction in the United States (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). The official diagnosis of marijuana addiction is called marijuana use disorder. Diagnosis will be determined on a scale of mild to severe. The severity of the diagnosis will depend on the prevalence of the patient’s symptoms.

Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

Symptoms of marijuana addiction reflect two main components: the ability to cope with stress without using the drug, and the effect the drug has on the patient’s overall quality of life.

Symptoms of marijuana addiction include:

  • Cravings for use
  • Triggers for use
  • Change in weight and appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty coping with upsetting situations without using
  • Choosing friends and social circles based on use
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Hiding severity or frequency of drug use
  • Needing more and more to feel its effects
  • Feeling irritable when not using
  • Experiencing headaches when not using
  • Strained relationships related to marijuana use
  • Decline in cognitive function and academic performance or job performance
  • Lack of motivation

It is possible to go through withdrawal when stopping the use of marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms can last between 1 week and one month.

Withdrawal symptoms from prolonged marijuana use include:

  • Sleeping issues and insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Anger outbursts
  • Depressed mood
  • Intense cravings
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation

Causes and Risk Factors of Marijuana Addiction

Just like any mental health disorder, marijuana addiction is caused by the patient’s circumstances. Each person who suffers from marijuana has causes and risk factors that contribute to the onset of the disorder.

Common causes and risk factors that may result in marijuana addiction include:

  • Beginning use before the age of 18
  • Using marijuana to cope with stress or mood swings
  • Suffering from another mental health disorder
  • Having parents or family members who also use drugs and alcohol
  • Having a family history of addiction
  • Social or peer influence, or peer pressure to use
  • Abuse or dependence on other drugs or alcohol
  • Poor stress management skills
  • Easy access to marijuana
  • Difficulty abstaining from use
  • Prolonged and frequent use for at least 6 months

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Treatment for marijuana addiction will focus on sobriety and the development of healthy coping skills. It will also address any underlying mental health issues that contributed to the development of the addiction. Typically, medication will not be used in treatment of marijuana addiction.

Treatment modalities for marijuana addiction include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • 12-step programs
  • Residential therapy (In severe cases)

Treatment will be individualized to meet the patient’s unique needs. The patient may be recommended to participate in different forms of therapy, like:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is effective in targeting problematic behaviors related to using. CBT teaches healthy coping skills for stress and skills that help with managing cravings and triggers.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET). MET focuses on stimulating motivation for change. MET helps with engaging in a treatment regiment, and empowering the patient to take control and initiative over their own recovery and abstinence.
  • Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT incorporates a mindfulness-based approach. It teaches healthy coping skills for upset emotions, stress and anxiety. It helps teach impulse control issues and skills to prevent relapse.

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