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Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant. Another form of marijuana, known as hashish, comes from the compressed resin of cannabis flowers. While both of these drugs can vary greatly in potency and quality, marijuana and hashish both affect a person’s central nervous system. Common effects of these drugs include impacts to coordination, visual tracking, and the ability to concentrate. Blood-shoot eyes and an increased heart rate and blood pressure are also common.
Regular users of marijuana or hashish may also experience a long-term loss of energy, lack of concentration, memory loss, agitation, insomnia, sinusitis, and bronchial irritation. Heavy users may develop asthma over time, as well as decreased fertility and compromised immune systems.
If you suspect a loved one may be struggling with marijuana addiction, contact an addiction treatment professional as soon as possible. They can provide you with important information about getting your loved one the help they need.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
For many years, marijuana was believed to not have addictive properties in comparison to “harder” drugs like cocaine or heroin. However, with new strains of cannabis cultivated for their high THC potency, marijuana users now more commonly exhibit addictive behaviors when using the drug.
Marijuana addiction can include the compulsive need to consume the drug, for example, or behaviors that involve getting, using, and hoarding the drug. Even in states where marijuana use is legal and regulated, individuals may struggle with compulsive marijuana use and find that they have become dependent on the drug to help manage social interactions or stress and anxiety.
Signs & Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction
Signs and symptoms of chronic marijuana or hashish use may include the following physical changes:
- Rapid, loud talking and bursts of laughter in early stages of intoxication
- Sleepy or stuporous in later stages of intoxication
- Forgetfulness in conversation
- Inflammation in the whites of the eyes (pupils unlikely to be dilated)
- Odor similar to burnt rope on clothing or breath
- Tendency to drive slowly (beneath speed limit)
- Distorted sense of time (tendency to overestimate time intervals)
- Use or possession of paraphernalia (roach clip, packs of rolling papers, pipes, bongs)
- “Munchies” (the urge to eat snacks)
Individuals who are struggling with marijuana addiction may also exhibit some of the following behavior changes:
- Disinterest in work, school, or professional commitments
- Focus on getting and using the drug
- Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior while under the influence of the drug
- Loss of interest in personal or professional relationships
- Alienation from family members or friends
- Interest in spending time only with fellow drug users
- Irritation or anxiety when unable to consume the drug
Chronic marijuana use can be damaging to an individual’s emotional, mental, and physical health. If your loved one is showing several of the above symptoms, please contact an addiction treatment or medical professional to discuss next steps.
How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?
Marijuana contains a psychoactive chemical known as THC which interacts with the brain as it enters the bloodstream. This leads to the well-known effects of marijuana on perception, such as a feeling of elongated time, distorted sounds and visuals, and difficulty walking and moving. At high levels, THC can even lead to hallucinatory experiences or temporary mental instability, particularly for those who have underlying mental health challenges, even if undiagnosed.
If individuals use marijuana on a regular basis, they may experience memory loss or difficulty with comprehension, concentration, and other cognitive functions. Much research remains to be done on the long-term effects of marijuana use on cognitive abilities, but research in teens shows that chronic marijuana use can affect the development of the brain.
You can read more about marijuana’s effect on the brain at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
What is Synthetic Marijuana?
Synthetic marijuana is a synthetic cannabinoid that is made in a lab. This drug is much more dangerous than natural marijuana as it is not meant for human consumption or medical use. The long-term effects of this drug are unknown. The toxicity of synthetic marijuana is often unknown, but this type of drug typically is very potent and contains high levels of THC. Synthetic marijuana has gained popularity over the years because the chemicals contained in the drug are much harder to detect in drug tests in comparison to natural marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana is known by several street names such as Spice, K2, Black Mamba, and Fake Weed, and can sometimes be purchased legally because drug manufacturers constantly change the chemical structure to circumvent drug laws. Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sold combined with herbs. They are usually smoked or occasionally drunk in the form of a tea.
Synthetic marijuana (also known as synthetic cannabinoids) can still be found at gas stations, corner stores, and other retailers despite a crackdown by local governments nationwide. These drugs have little quality control and may contain other drugs such as opioids and nicotine, as well as a variety of harmful chemical compounds that can lead to medical complications.
Signs of Synthetic Marijuana Addiction
Symptoms of synthetic cannabinoid abuse are similar to those of marijuana but may also include:
- Disconnection from thoughts, feelings, memories, and sense of identity (dissociative state)
- Fast and irregular heart rate
- Chest Pain
- Racing thoughts
Both marijuana and synthetic marijuana come with side effects that can significantly affect a user, particularly their central nervous system. Synthetic marijuana, in particular, can cause serious harm due to its unknown and variable quantity of THC.
How Does Synthetic Marijuana Affect the Brain?
Although synthetic marijuana can cause similar sensations as marijuana due to the presence of THC in the drug, its potency is typically much higher than organic cannabis. As a result, the impact of the drug on the brain is stronger and longer-lasting with synthetic marijuana, resulting in higher levels of impairment that last longer. At the same time, because synthetic marijuana may also contain additional drugs and chemicals, the user may experience complications from unlabeled substances within the drug itself.
These complications can be both mental, including higher levels of anxiety, fear, or paranoia, and physical, including damage to the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys.
Next Steps & Treatment
If you or a loved one are concerned about marijuana or substance use, please contact an addiction treatment professional as soon as possible. Licensed professional treatment providers can provide vital resources to assist with managing withdrawal, selecting the appropriate program, and maintaining your recovery for the long term.
Turning Point of Tampa has helped individuals find recovery from addiction and substance use since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact us at 813-680-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.