There is a popular belief that marijuana is not an addictive drug. However, health professionals and scientists agree that marijuana is an addictive drug that can adversely affect your mental and physical health. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), research suggests that 30% of those who use marijuana will develop a marijuana addiction. Over the past few decades, the amount of THC in marijuana has steadily climbed, making today’s marijuana contain three times the concentration compared to 25 years ago. The concern is that higher amounts of THC will lead to higher rates of dependency and addiction. Here are some ways to better understand the effects THC has on you and whether you are developing an addiction to marijuana.

Marijuana and the Brain

Most addictions link to dopamine, a chemical that transmits information between the brain’s neurons. Dopamine regulates many functions, from attention to learning, to motor skills and emotions. Dopamine is also primarily responsible for a sense of pleasure, which is also a contributing motivator behind many addictions. However, dopamine does not act alone; other chemicals such as serotonin and adrenaline influence your response and desire for a specific substance.

The endocannabinoid, a set of molecules in the brain and body, acts as the puppet master for other neuro transmitting systems. It moves things up or down to modulate the effect and balance within the brain. When you use marijuana, THC mimics the brain’s endocannabinoid and “hijacks” the receptors. The result for most users is feeling pleasure. Further, using marijuana frequently at a younger age can alter the brain’s development, potentially setting a young adult up for addiction in the future.

Psychological Dependence

Marijuana is a drug often used in personal and social settings and can become identified with many enjoyable activities. When marijuana becomes prevalent in being incorporated into other daily activities, it becomes dangerous. Psychological dependence occurs when you develop the habit or desire to smoke despite health or social consequences. Often, when you develop this relationship with marijuana, you begin to build psychological cravings. Psychological cravings can become triggered through events, locations, social circles, or daily routines. For example, if you smoke before going to bed, your wind-down time might trigger a craving.

Other signs you have developed a psychological dependence is when you begin to encounter social consequences. Ongoing use despite issues of productivity, low self-esteem, and financial ramifications each demonstrate a psychological dependence. Often, it is these psychological dependencies that will lead you to use marijuana again. It is also more likely to lead to a cannabis use disorder that will require treatment.

When Does Marijuana Use Become an Addiction?

Recognizing a cannabis use disorder can be challenging because of how many people portray it as being harmless. However, using substances compulsively regardless of the substance, to the point of it interfering or taking over your life, means you have developed a dependency. More often, marijuana addiction diagnoses happen during adolescence or young adulthood; recent trends toward societal acceptance of marijuana use have created an increase in the addiction rates among older adults. If you are developing a cannabis use disorder, you are likely to experience behavior changes including:

  • Distorted perceptions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
  • Problems with learning and memory

Another sign that you have developed an addiction is when you experience withdrawal. Cannabis withdrawal has been well-characterized in clinical and epidemiologic studies. Symptoms of withdrawal can develop just days or a week after discontinuing use. Some of the most prominent signs of withdrawal include anxiety, irritability and depression.

Early Intervention and Prevention

Though more people are beginning to recognize the dangers of using cannabis, they still represent a small percentage of those who seek treatment. It is essential to understand that many treatment centers such as New Hope Ranch provide quality treatment for overcoming cannabis use disorder. Because the drug is psychological in nature, many people who get treatment use behavioral therapy to tackle their addiction’s psychological aspects. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness practices can help you understand your cravings and habits linked to your cannabis use. Such practices serve as a beneficial way to arm you against cravings and relapse.

Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery can also connect you with others working to overcome their cannabis use disorder. Social settings provide excellent opportunities for you to connect and build a support system to hold you accountable for your actions. They are especially beneficial because you will understand that they, like you, are trying to avoid using; this helps minimize the temptation to use when in their company.

If you feel like your marijuana use has turned into an addiction, know that it is time to get help. At New Hope Ranch, we offer various behavioral therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), 12-step programs, and holistic treatment to ensure you have the best access to care that will meet your needs. Our residential treatment program provides conventional and alternative treatments that help you continue to grow into your best self. Overcoming your marijuana addiction begins the day you decide to get help. Don’t limit your potential; act today and take back control of your future. To learn more about treatment options, reach out to New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, by calling us at (737) 600-8565