Marijuana Addiction Symptoms and Warning Signs
Helping Your Loved Ones Avoid Getting Lost In The Weed
My friend was acting weird yesterday and I had no idea how to talk to them about it. It wasn’t just that they were acting weird, but…gosh, I feel like I shouldn’t even write this next part. It makes me feel bad.
They smelled, too. I’ve known them forever, basically, and none of this is like them at all. They’re normally so much fun to talk to, they usually have a lot of energy and are one of the most adventurous people I’ve ever met.
But yesterday—and actually it’s been a lot longer than just yesterday, I think I’m having a hard time admitting all of this is going on—it was like I was talking to some new person. It was a little after lunch, and a group of us were going to head outside for a walk. My friend said they didn’t want to go, which was already odd, but then they fell asleep.
I feel so weird writing this stuff down because I know it’s not that big of a deal to take a nap after lunch. I’ve done that more than a few times! But this was new. And before they fell asleep, when I went over to them to ask if they were sure, I could smell them. It was a kind of sweaty smell, but it was also…well, yeah. It was weed.
Or I thought it was, anyway. Some of my other friends said it wasn’t, it was probably cigarettes or something. All of this sounds so silly. But things just seemed so off, somehow. So, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I decided I had to ask.
On the way back to the house after the walk, I passed by my friend’s car and noticed a sleeping bag and pillow in the backseat. That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong. But I also got more and more worried that I was going to offend them over something that wasn’t a big deal at all.
I have a lot of friends who think weed is no big deal, but if my friend was sleeping in their car all of a sudden, then something was definitely wrong.
How Can You Tell If Someone Is Struggling With Marijuana Addiction?
Now is one of the most interesting times to be discussing marijuana within the United States. Public opinion has continued to shift over its use and role as a reliable and evidence-based medical treatment, but along with that it has been placed on many newspaper front pages and the lead spot on afternoon news programs due to more and more states legalizing it in some form.
Depending on the state, there are now laws on the books that allow for recreational marijuana use, and in some cases, privately growing a limited number of marijuana plants for personal use only. Similarly, there are now medical marijuana laws throughout some of the 50 states.
Although these laws, generally speaking, have not completely legalized marijuana, they have contributed to the shifting perspectives on what marijuana does and how it impacts those who are using it, whether regularly or otherwise.
One thing you may often hear about marijuana is that it’s safer than alcohol. In truth, defining one drug as safer than another requires comparing a nearly infinite number of variables, and so the statement becomes impossible to prove. This is often an easy target, however, especially for those who are advocates for legalizing marijuana, because alcohol is legal yet can still lead to addiction, long-term health repercussions, and even premature death.
The fact remains that marijuana is also capable of leading to dependence, addiction, and long-term health repercussions. It is one of the reasons why the conversations about marijuana are now more complex than ever.
If you are worried about a friend or loved one, however, the debate over whether marijuana should be legalized in exactly the way alcohol is may seem pointless. Knowing that marijuana use can lead to dependence or addiction means the overall debate has an added layer of complication, yes, but it does not mean that it’s easier to help someone you feel may be struggling.
In order to get a good start on helping someone and determining if they are struggling with marijuana addiction, you will need to know how marijuana works when it enters someone’s system.
How Marijuana Affects Your Brain
Not only can marijuana affect your brain and your body, but it can do so in a way that can lead to dangerous scenarios including overdose, hallucination, and long-term detrimental effects. The main reason for this is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
You’ve maybe heard the word cannabinoid before, and if so, you now know a little more about that word because THC is a cannabinoid. Everyone’s body naturally creates cannabinoids called anandamide and arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) to interact with the endocannabinoid (EC) system.
Our brains interact with the endocannabinoid system in multiple locations which can help us understand why marijuana and THC in particular affect our minds and bodies in multiple ways.
If a person ingests marijuana—whether that be through smoking, vaping, or other ways we will cover soon—THC makes its way through the bloodstream and interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the EC system.
Since the EC system developed to handle the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids, whenever an outside cannabinoid enters the body it leads to some of the common symptoms we see from marijuana use, like euphoria, tiredness, a lack of hand-eye coordination, and more.
All of that helps you understand how marijuana works, and now you can start to focus on helping someone who may be addicted to marijuana.
Signs, Symptoms, and Effects Of Marijuana Use
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists marijuana as the most commonly used drug in the U.S. and says more than 22 million people use it each month. When you take that statistic into account, the idea that marijuana addiction is real becomes a little easier to believe.
If you are trying to determine if a loved one is addicted, however, what should you look for? To start out, you’re going to need to take their past behaviors into account. Other things like their age are important as well because, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, almost 50% of all those who seek treatment for marijuana addiction are under the age of 25.
That does not mean if someone is over the age of 25 they cannot be addicted to marijuana. There are a lot of factors that play into how one person responds to potential addiction versus another, and it can be helpful to know more about each person in order to figure out where you should start helping them—or if they need help.
As defined by the National Institutes of Health, addiction is characterized by a person’s inability to stop using the drug despite how it negatively impacts their life. Generally, a person who is using marijuana excessively will arrive at dependence first. This means they will feel withdrawal symptoms when not using marijuana and can be said to “need” the drug in order to maintain normalcy.
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If marijuana is already the most commonly used drug and is still, technically, illegal in many ways, as it is discussed more and more and legalized, marijuana use will naturally rise. This means if you are worried about someone using marijuana, you can look for certain signs they have used too much.
Typically, this scenario would mean they have overdosed. That word can carry many meanings and not simply mean dying from an overabundance of a substance. This paper for the Rochester Institute of Technology collects many definitions of overdose and also indicates the drug largely drives what an overdose means.
For marijuana, an overdose will almost never, barring extremely unique circumstances, lead to death. There are signs and symptoms someone has overconsumed marijuana, however, and they can help you determine if someone you know is struggling with marijuana addiction.
What Does Marijuana Overdose Look Like?
Overconsuming marijuana can lead to many different side effects and symptoms, some that are extremely detrimental to a person’s mental and physical health and well-being. Someone who has consumed too much marijuana may experience
- chest pain, heightened heart rate, higher than normal blood pressure, or chest/heart palpitations
- general unresponsiveness
- altered skin color, such as exceedingly flushed or pale
- tremors and/or uncontrollable shaking
- increased anxiety and potentially panic attacks
- extreme paranoia
- delusional thinking/actions, hallucinations, and potentially a loss of identity
- losing touch with reality that may lead to psychotic breaks
Not everyone will experience these side effects. As mentioned previously, there are many factors at play, such as how much THC a person has ingested, how long they have been using marijuana, and more. One large factor for determining how long marijuana intoxication lasts is how the marijuana was consumed.
If someone smokes marijuana they will generally feel the effects one to three hours later. Ingesting marijuana through edibles, on the other hand, may extend the effect even longer. This does bring up an interesting question, however. What are the ways someone can ingest marijuana?
- ingesting edibles such as cookies, gummies, brownies, etc., that are made with marijuana in one or more of the ingredients, sometimes through “kief,” a small crystal-like substance that forms on the marijuana bud
- eating or smoking marijuana extracts or THC resins such as honey oil, hash oil, wax, etc.)
- eating cannabis capsules
- smoking the dried marijuana bud, whether in a pipe, rolled into a cigarette, or vaping it in some form
- placing THC droplets under the tongue or in food/drink
Smoking or vaping marijuana means the THC enters the body via the lungs, obviously, and thus travels into the bloodstream. This means it will arrive at the brain very quickly and generally will produce effects rapidly. If someone is ingesting marijuana by eating it or a product containing THC, it will travel to the bloodstream via the stomach and intestinal lining and thus take longer to produce effects.
Eating/orally ingesting marijuana products is one of the easiest ways for a person to consume too much THC and begin feeling the symptoms listed above. This is because the factors that determine how quickly a person’s body synthesizes the THC through their stomach and intestine will vary depending on a massive list of variables such as their overall health history, their weight, and many more.
How To Help Someone Who Has Consumed Too Much THC
If you or someone you know has ingested too much THC and are experiencing uncomfortable or scary side effects, there are some things that can be done to help alleviate them. The first and most important is to focus on remaining calm. That may seem easier said than done, but it is key and will help to avoid more serious side effects.
Typically, focusing on the idea that these effects are temporary is an important and helpful step. Going somewhere relaxing will help as well, a place where you or the person you are helping can sit quietly, breathe regularly, and focus on the short-term nature of the problem.
Another helpful situation is to introduce calming distractions, like movies or music, or even a quiet conversation. All of these things are focused on maintaining calm and avoiding any harmful thoughts or emotions, but also are there to help someone avoid paranoia. A strong focus on reality and staying rooted in the idea that the effects will pass will allow someone to navigate through the side effects.
Rehab Center By Vertava Health Can Help With Marijuana Addiction Treatment
We can help you or your loved ones recover from marijuana addiction. We have individualized treatment plans that will address each person’s unique situation. Our full continuum of care can offer the beginning or continuation of recovery from addiction.
It is okay to call and ask for help. Marijuana addiction can derail someone’s plans and make their life difficult. You can speak to someone right now by calling 877-630-2970. We want you or your loved ones to experience a life without addiction, so let’s talk today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Warning Signs Of Drug Addiction With Marijuana?
Not everyone will showcase the same warning signs, so you will have to take many factors into account like past behaviors, age, and whether a person is acting significantly different than normal. Suddenly having no money, or even selling possessions they are fond of is one indicator there may be an addiction problem. Rapid shifts in their mood and also a lack of desire to do things they normally would enjoy is another. Part of why it’s so hard to know when someone needs help with marijuana addiction is all of these signs could also indicate there are other problems. If someone is buying and using marijuana and jeopardizing their social life, professional standing, and physical health, it is very likely they are addicted and need help.