Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines, Executive Director at New Hope Ranch

Marijuana addiction is a severe and growing problem in the U.S. However, many still believe that there is no such thing as marijuana addiction. From the outside looking in, you may find this distressing if you try to help your loved one realize that they may be developing a marijuana use issue or marijuana addiction. It is essential to recognize the consequences of short and long-term marijuana use and to understand how you can help a loved one that may be struggling.

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

The term “marijuana” refers to various dried parts of the cannabis plant. The plant contains cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which act on specific brain receptions within an individual’s central nervous system. Cannabinoids affect how neurons in different brain areas communicate with others. THC is the primary chemical compound in marijuana that produces mind-altering sensations and other effects.

Most often, people consume marijuana by smoking it. It is rolled into cigarettes, also called joints, or smoked in bowls or water pipes called bongs. Another increasingly popular method of consumption is vaping pure THC extract, although these liquids are frequently mixed with other harmful chemicals. There are also gummies and other foods containing THC, known as edibles. All of these methods of consumption can be dangerous for your health.

Short-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

When marijuana is smoked, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The effects can kick in within 15 seconds to one minute and last several hours, depending on the amount of marijuana ingested. When marijuana is ingested, the body absorbs the THC much more slowly, with initial effects kicking in within 30 to 90 minutes.

Short-term effects include:

  • Altered senses
  • Altered perception of time
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Lethargy or drowsiness
  • Issues with motor coordination and body movement
  • Issues with thinking, concentration, memory and problem-solving
  • Increased appetite

When taken in large doses, short-term effects may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

Many health concerns come with the long-term use of marijuana. Marijuana directly impacts several brain areas, which can reduce or slow brain development during youth, adolescence and young adulthood. When people start using marijuana at young ages, the drug may cause long-term impairments in thinking, memory and learning. These effects are due to marijuana impacting the brain’s ability to connect and function properly.

Another long-term health effect of marijuana use is lung problems. Smoking and vaping marijuana damages human lungs, not only from the heat of the smoke but also from the chemicals inhaled. Coughing and breathing problems may occur from long-term use. It is imperative to recognize that there is no safe way to smoke marijuana.

Long-term use of marijuana also increases the risk of developing a chemical dependency or addiction to the drug. Despite a widespread belief that marijuana is not addictive, marijuana can produce psychological dependence. This condition occurs when a person develops the desire to smoke despite health or social consequences resulting from even moderate marijuana use. Once psychological dependence develops, it is only a matter of time before a cannabis use disorder or addiction follows suit.

Helping Your Loved One With Their Marijuana Use

Approaching a loved one that you believe may have a marijuana use problem can be challenging. If they do not recognize it themselves, your loved one may get defensive or angry when you approach them with your concerns. However, bringing your concerns to them may bring them closer to realizing their problem and seeking help.

Avoid using confrontational or judgmental language when you feel comfortable enough and are ready to talk with your loved one. Approach the conversation from a place of compassion and empathy, acknowledging that you are on their side. If you have never struggled with substance use or addiction yourself, you may not understand that your loved one is no longer in control of their substance use. Addiction is a disease that requires treatment.

Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Avoid creating ultimatums for your loved one. This rule of thumb is vital, especially in the beginning stages of treatment and recovery. It takes time for people to recognize their substance use consequences and takes even longer to commit to recovery, especially after chronic use.
  • Set boundaries if necessary. Perhaps you need to develop a boundary with your loved one so that you can no longer be around them while they are under the influence of marijuana. Setting healthy boundaries can be necessary to keep the peace and show your loved one how vital treatment and recovery are to your relationship.
  • Alter your personal expectations. If you have not struggled with addiction first-hand, you may expect your loved one to quit using marijuana instantly or commit to treatment immediately. These are unrealistic expectations. Try and show greater understanding for your loved one and avoid creating false expectations.
  • Help your loved one find treatment resources. There are ample substance use and addiction treatment resources in nearly every community. If you truly want your loved one to heal from their addiction, you can help them by locating treatment facilities and other recovery resources. Many treatment centers have specialized programs specifically for treating marijuana addiction, which can be a game-changer in achieving long-lasting recovery. While recovery will help your loved one achieve and maintain sobriety, it will also teach valuable life skills and healthy coping mechanisms to sustain their recovery.

New Hope Ranch offers a marijuana addiction treatment program, among many other programs at our addiction treatment facility. To learn more about our facility or how to help your loved one with their addiction, call us today at (737) 600-8565.