With greater legalization nationwide, marijuana – also known as cannabis, grass, pot, and weed – is one of the mostly widely used illicit substances. While marijuana has more recently been applied as a medication used to treat nausea from chemotherapy and other GI conditions, there still may be unintended consequences from long-term recreational use. Although it’s widely popular, marijuana is not without its risks. In fact, despite the common misconception that the substance is safe due to its being natural, emerging science is identifying other unknown risk factors that stem from marijuana addiction. For those working to overcome this potent addiction, marijuana relapse is also a growing concern.
Marijuana has been shown to have many health benefits, but it also has some serious drawbacks. It can cause problems such as memory loss, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and even psychosis.
If you or someone you love is struggling to overcome marijuana addiction, finding support can make a world of difference. AspenRidge offers marijuana addiction recovery programs in Colorado catered to individuals. Contact us directly at 855-281-5588 to learn more.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is derived from the cannabis Sativa plant. The most commonly known form of this drug is smoked or vaporized through pipes or bongs. Marijuana is a widely used substance commonly used as a recreational substance because of its effects on the brain. However, the substance is strong and causes changes in the way the body processes information. These changes include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased breathing rate
- Decreased appetite
- Euphoria (feeling good)
- Anxiety (feeling bad)
- Memory Loss
- Psychosis (seeing things that aren’t really there)
The effects of marijuana vary depending on what type is used, how long it is used for, and whether you take other substances at the same time. Some people may experience more euphoric feelings than others, and they may feel different amounts of anxiety.
There are several misconceptions about using marijuana. One of the biggest ones is that marijuana addiction is a myth.
Marijuana contains chemicals called cannabinoids that affect the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating our moods, sleep patterns, pain response, immune function, and appetite. In fact, studies show that these compounds play an important role in maintaining healthy nerve cell communication throughout the body.
How Marijuana Impacts The Brain
While marijuana doesn’t contain the harmful ingredients found in alcohol or cigarettes, it still affects the user’s mental state. When inhaled, marijuana enters the bloodstream quickly and reaches the brain within 10 minutes. Once inside the brain, THC binds to cannabinoid receptors located in the limbic system, which controls emotions, pleasure, and motivation. This binding triggers the release of brain chemicals such as:
all of which influence our moods and behaviors. Not only is marijuana addiction real, but once it becomes problematic, overcoming it can be quite difficult. Marijuana relapse is a prevalent issue for individuals who are seeking to recover from ongoing marijuana abuse.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “marijuana dependence is characterized by compulsive use, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse.”
While there is no scientific evidence proving that marijuana is physically addicting, there is plenty of research showing that it can be psychologically addictive.
Why is Marijuana Addictive?
Marijuana addiction occurs when your body becomes dependent on the chemical compound THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Your body will continue to produce more THC after you stop smoking or eating marijuana-infused products. This leads to a physical craving for the substance, causing you to want to consume more and more.
When you first begin to use marijuana, you probably don’t notice any negative side effects. But over time, you may start experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Lack of coordination
- Dry mouth
- Muscle aches
- Poor concentration
Effects of Marijuana
The effects of marijuana vary from person to person and depend on many factors, including the amount smoked, the method used to ingest it, and the presence of other drugs or medications. The effects also change as the body adjusts to regular use.
Some people find that marijuana makes them feel relaxed and mellow. Others report feeling anxious, paranoid, or even depressed. These mood changes can last anywhere from 30 seconds to hours.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Marijuana has been shown to impair memory, judgment, reasoning, perception, coordination, motor skills, and self-control as it directly affects areas of the brain that are responsible for our cognitive performance.
Other common effects of marijuana include:
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Rapid breathing
Substance Abuse Rates with Marijuana
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Marijuana is considered to be the most commonly used federally illegal substance in the USA with 48.2 million people, or around 18% of Americans using it at least once during 2019.
Recent studies showed that around 3 in 10 people who used marijuana have a substance use disorder. Research shows that those who use marijuana before the age of 18, are considered to be at more risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Long-term regular use of marijuana has been linked to an increased risk of developing psychosis or schizophrenia in users. For this reason, marijuana recovery is important, but the risks of marijuana relapse should always be considered.
Marijuana Relapse Rate Statistics
According to a study conducted by the US National Institute of Health, only 6.63% of people in remission with cannabis use disorder had relapsed at the three-year follow-up. Hence, treatment programs for cannabis use disorder should provide check-ups or booster sessions to increase the probability of prolonged remission.
Relapse of Marijuana
Marijuana relapse is characterized as the return to the substance after a period of abstinence. Relapsing during recovery is a real fear for many. Find resources for relapse prevention here:
Unfortunately due to the significant effects of substances such as marijuana have on our brain functions, the process of recovering from substance abuse is a complicated one and can often be an uncomfortable time as many experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Hence, marijuana relapse is a common part of the recovery process.
Relapse is often stigmatized as a failure or setback, however, the recovery process is a difficult one and relapse shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Everyone’s journey is different and several factors could contribute to someone relapsing such as:
- Experiencing symptoms of marijuana withdrawal
- Stress and overwhelm
- No relapse prevention plan or steady treatment plan
- Lack of a support network
- Peer pressure
- Previous relapse
- Being exposed to triggers
Avoiding relapse can be difficult especially if you’re experiencing significant stress in your life or are faced with co-occurring disorders. However, there are a couple of tips that can help prevent relapse. Some of the most effective ways include:
- Knowing and avoiding triggers
- Being honest and seeking help
- Starting therapy for the substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders
- Leaning on your support system
- Changing your social circle to avoid the temptation
- Having an effective treatment for marijuana use in place
Some of the most common relapse warning signs include:
- Reducing participation in therapy and treatment programs
- Spending more time with others suffering from substance use disorder
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Retreating from your support circle
Marijuana Recovery & Relapse Prevention
Marijuana abuse can have a significant impact on individuals suffering from cannabis use disorder as well as their families. If you think you might be suffering from marijuana addiction and you feel you are at risk of relapsing there is help available to get you back on track. There are several options of treatment for marijuana use.
At AspenRidge Recovery, we offer two leading treatments in the Colorado area, one in Lakewood and one in Fort Collins. We provide in-depth and effective treatment programs to help clients struggling to stop using marijuana and achieve sustained abstinence. Our treatment programs include:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Alumni Program
For more information on treatment programs and support available, contact us today at 855-281-5588.