Marijuana Symptoms and Warning Signs

While the effects of marijuana addiction aren’t generally considered as serious as the effects of other addictions, they can still lead to problems in the personal lives of some users.

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Signs of Marijuana Abuse

If you’re concerned someone you care about is using marijuana, being aware of the signs of abuse is the first step toward finding out. Some common signs that may indicate marijuana use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Weight gain
  • Nervous or paranoid behavior
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Memory impairment
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired judgment
  • Distorted perception
  • Relaxed state, sleepiness
  • Feeling “high” or euphoria
  • Slowed or poor coordination

The Dangers of Marijuana

The majority of Americans don’t have any more of a problem with marijuana than they do with alcohol. Some states have even legalized recreational marijuana use. This doesn’t mean marijuana use is risk-free.

The psychological consequences of prolonged marijuana abuse aren’t completely understood. Some studies suggest that marijuana addiction may increase the chances of developing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, motivational disorder and schizophrenia.

It isn’t surprising that marijuana use affects short-term memory and the ability to retain new information. The long-term effects on memory and learning, however, are uncertain.

Immediate Side Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The short-term side effects of marijuana aren’t life-threatening, but there are potential dangers of use. Marijuana-related emergency room admissions increased by 59 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Some of the immediate side effects of marijuana include:

  • Paranoia
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Overeating
  • Impaired motor function
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired cognition
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Long-term Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The long-term side effects of marijuana abuse aren’t as damaging as other drugs. However, there are discernible effects possibly attributed to marijuana. Although there isn’t any concrete evidence that chronic marijuana use has damaging effects in adults, this is not the case in adolescents. Some possible side effects of long-term use may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Reduced ability to learn
  • Lung infections
  • Inhibited mental development
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory loss

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Possible Effects on Teens

The potential long-term risks of marijuana abuse were highlighted in a study conducted by Duke University. It was shown that among 1,037 people, those who regularly used marijuana as teens experienced an average decrease of eight IQ points. However, the study also noted that IQ differences could be due to other factors.

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Recognizing a Marijuana Addiction

One of the biggest signs of a marijuana addiction is an insatiable urge to use marijuana no matter the negative outcome. This could mean getting high at work or spending more on the drug than is affordable. Generally, most people addicted to marijuana don’t feel normal unless they can get high.

Some clinical warning signs of marijuana addiction include needing larger amounts of marijuana to get high and prioritizing marijuana use over social or occupational responsibilities. Learn more about the clinical criteria used to diagnose an addiction.

Intervention for a Marijuana Problem

If marijuana is hindering a healthy and productive life for someone you care about, staging an intervention can be a good way to help them make a change. Oftentimes, people who have become addicted to marijuana do not believe they can be addicted, which is why they haven’t gotten help. An intervention is the perfect time to present them with the facts: marijuana is addictive and can have a negative impact on their life.

Parents of teens who have started abusing marijuana regularly may stage an intervention to explain the potential developmental issues that may crop up in the future. Learn more about staging an intervention.

Marijuana Withdrawal, Treatment and Next Steps

Some people who have used marijuana for years have reported symptoms of withdrawal when they attempted to quit. Unlike those quitting heroin or alcohol, the primary symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are primarily psychological rather than physical.

Chronic marijuana users who quit cold-turkey may experience irritability, insomnia, cravings, depression, restlessness, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, and anxiety.

Most marijuana withdrawal symptoms develop within the first 24–72 hours after the last use, peak within the first week, and last approximately 1–2 weeks. Sleep difficulties may last more than 30 days. Post-Acute Withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) are reported to last anywhere from 12, 18, or 24 months. Some PAWS include restlessness, irritability, agitation, diminished appetite, poor concentration, increased anxiety, difficulty with decision-making skills, diminished ability functioning at same level as prior to using marijuana, and cravings. The process of PAWS are inexorable and it is crucial to learn healthy coping skills to manage PAWS in order to remain sober

Seeking help through treatment can teach users how to get over the emotional hurdles of quitting marijuana. Treatment often includes a therapist who can coach patients through rough days and support groups that can provide comfort. Contact a dedicated treatment provider if you or someone you care about needs help finding treatment.

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