Marijuana or cannabis is a psycho active substance that has been used since prehistoric times. According to a study conducted by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 29 million Americans above the age of 12 has abused this drug at least once in their lifetime. The research revealed that there has been a significant increase in the number of people with marijuana addiction over the past few decades. The addiction is developed due to the main active chemical in Marijuana, delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which triggers the brain cells to activate the release of dopamine.
What is Marijuana Addiction
The cannabis plant is grown throughout the world, and marijuana is the dried leaves and flower tops of this plant. The common nick name of the marijuana is “pot”. Other slang terms of the drug include weed, ganja, herb, grass, gangster, sinsemilla, and Mary Jane. The drug is usually smoked, ingested, or used as tea. There is a stronger version of marijuana called hashish, which is derived from concentrated resins of the plant. It is usually smoked as cigarettes or in pipes.
Fundamental Process of Marijuana Addiction
The chemical THC present in marijuana mimics the functioning of natural neurotransmitters in your brain such as dopamine. Your brain is normally prewired to respond to changes in dopamine level. When you take marijuana the normal balance is disturbed. The areas affected include the front part of the brain, cerebellum, and reward center. When the brain is flooded with the chemicals from the drug it will immediately respond to the change in normal balance. In cerebellum it diminishes spontaneous activity and brings about a calming effect. You will become clumsy as the fine motor control is impaired. The time goes slower and distances seem larger. The overall effect of the drug will be completely different from alcohol addiction. It also affects the reward center by increasing the level of dopamine. As a result, the use of the drug will give you pleasure or a high. The amazing fact is that marijuana can affect any part of your brain and the balance of multiple systems in the brain is disrupted.
Effects of Marijuana Addiction
The effect of marijuana on the user depends on its strength. As the amount of THC in the drug increases, the strength also increases. Intake of the drug causes increased dopamine release giving the user a high. It is also capable of creating various types of hallucinations which may differ from one individual to another. The drug affects the areas of the brain that control appetite, memory, concentration, pleasure, thought, movement, and sensory and time perception. The short term effects of addiction to marijuana include:
- Impaired short term memory
(The user will not be able to remember the recent events clearly. This will make it difficult to learn and retain complex information).
- Slow reaction time increases the risk of injuries
- Impaired motor coordination affects driving skills
- Judgment and decision making capabilities will be impaired
- Increased heart rate resulting in heart attacks
- Mood swings (euphoria and calmness)
- Anxiety and paranoia with high level of addiction
Exposure to marijuana can negatively affect the developing brain in teenagers. Intake of marijuana when pregnant can also be fatal.
Long term effects of marijuana abuse and addiction may include:
- Problems with career and school performances
- Respiratory illness such as bronchitis and chronic cough
- Cognitive impairment even when not under the influence of drug
Marijuana Addiction and Mental Illness run hand and hand. Co-morbidity is very common in marijuana addicts. People with physical dependence on marijuana may also have mental disorders. The improper use of drug can result in schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. It may also intensify the symptoms of mental disorders.
Treatments for Marijuana Addiction
As with any other drug rehab program the first step in the recovery process of marijuana abuse is detox. However, you may not need medical supervision. The physical withdrawal from the drug can cause a number of symptoms including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Mild agitation
Apart from detox and counseling, brief marijuana dependence counseling (BMDC), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and motivational incentives are also very effective in treating marijuana dependence. BMDC is a 10 week program intended for people who do not acknowledge their problem with marijuana abuse. A thorough assessment of the addiction is conducted and the users are encouraged to take responsibility for the choices they make. CBT focuses on the situations or people who triggers the use of the drug and find a solution for it. Even though no medications are available to treat the disease currently, researches are being conducted which promises new medicines that will help with recovery from marijuana addiction.