Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana is a greenish mixture of the dried components of the hemp plant. Often called pot, weed, grass, reefer, herb, Mary Jane or MJ, marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette or in a pipe. The main active chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which acts on the cannabis receptors in the brain to produce a “high.”

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs, but like other drugs, it can be addictive. A small percentage of marijuana users experience tolerance and withdrawal, two key characteristics of addiction, and require marijuana addiction treatment in order to stop using the drug. 

Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

How do you know if you’re a recreational pot smoker or a pot addict? In the American Psychology Association’s handbook of mental disorders, the DSM-IV, people who meet three or more of the following criteria may have a marijuana addiction:

  • Needing a larger amount of the drug to get high
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, mood swings, restlessness, insomnia, drug cravings and increased aggression, when stopping the use of marijuana, or taking other drugs to mask these withdrawal symptoms
  • Smoking larger amounts of pot than intended
  • Feeling like you need to cut back on your use
  • Spending significant periods of time acquiring or using drugs
  • Withdrawing from activities, hobbies or relationships that were once important to you
  • Continuing to smoke pot despite negative mental, psychological or physical consequences

Even though the high from marijuana lasts only a couple of hours, the drug’s effects on the brain can linger for up to one month.

What’s Wrong with Smoking Pot?

Marijuana is now more potent than ever and is reportedly easier to obtain than alcohol. Individuals who abuse marijuana consistently over a long period of time can experience serious health consequences, including:

  • Learning and memory problems
  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Lung disease
  • Decreased fertility
  • Impaired immunity
  • Increased risk of heart attack and mental illness

Marijuana has been described as a “gateway drug,” the use of which often leads to heavier drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Marijuana addiction not only causes health problems but also financial, legal, social and career troubles.

Treating Marijuana Addiction

Although marijuana has a reputation as one of the least harmful drugs, more people enter treatment for marijuana addiction each year than any other type of illegal drug addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency reinforcement and support groups are some of the most effective treatments for marijuana addiction.

Individuals who struggle with an addiction to pot can receive treatment on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Residential marijuana addiction treatment is preferred for individuals who use more than one drug and those with co-occurring mental health issues such as depression or anxiety (known as dual diagnosis).

Avoiding Relapse

During treatment for marijuana addiction, users develop the tools they need to stay clean and sober. In addition to new life skills, communication strategies and coping skills, patients learn:

  • To avoid people and places that trigger cravings to smoke pot
  • To ask those around them not to smoke or invite them to smoke
  • To avoid “addiction transfer,” such as switching from marijuana addiction to another addiction such as gambling, alcohol or sex
  • To take good care of themselves by eating a balanced diet, exercising and getting adequate sleep
  • To continue working their program of recovery through aftercare, support groups and 12-Step meetings