Signs & Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of marijuana addiction is a critical step toward getting the best treatment possible for you or your loved one. San Juan Capestrano Hospital in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, uses proven therapies and evidence-based treatment options to help adolescents and adults heal from marijuana addiction or other substance use disorders they are struggling with.

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Learn about marijuana addiction

Marijuana comes from a dried mixture of the flowers, seeds, and stems of the cannabis plant or from man-made cannabinoids called synthetic marijuana that are typically dried, shredded plant materials that have been sprayed with mind-altering chemicals. Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the main active ingredient in marijuana and is what causes people to experience the “high” associated with smoking marijuana or consuming it in other forms. THC acts much like the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which are responsible for thinking, memory, coordination, pleasure, and a person’s perception of time. When an individual consumes marijuana, whether through smoking it, eating it in foods or candies, or absorbing it in their skin through balms and oils, the THC tells their brain to release dopamine, which might make them feel euphoric and can potentially interfere with how their brain processes information.

Although marijuana might seem harmless, it can actually be an addictive substance that can cause significant health risks. Long-term marijuana use can impair learning and cause memory problems and many different behavioral challenges. People who abuse marijuana might also be at a higher risk of lung and breathing problems, as well as heart attack and stroke. But by recognizing the signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction, you or your loved one can seek professional treatment before the continued use of this substance may cause any harmful long-term effects.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors of marijuana addiction

The reasons people start smoking marijuana or abusing this substance vary from person to person, and certain risk factors may influence an individual’s likelihood for abusing marijuana. The following are some of the most common risk factors that could cause an individual to develop a marijuana addiction:

  • A family history of substance abuse
  • A personal history of substance abuse
  • Childhood adversity, such as growing up in a chaotic or abusive environment
  • Exposure to the use of marijuana at an early age
  • Peer pressure to use marijuana or other substances
  • Lack of adequate skills to face difficult life problems
  • Pre-existence of one or more mental health disorders
  • Easy access to marijuana

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction

There are many different signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction, and the symptoms of marijuana abuse and synthetic marijuana addiction can vary from person to person depending on whether they’re using natural or synthetic marijuana, how much marijuana they are using, and other factors in the individual’s life. The following are some of the signs and symptoms that could help you determine if a loved one is abusing marijuana:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Talking in a high voice and laughing louder than socially acceptable
  • Sudden changes in their peer group
  • Taking part in risky behaviors or illegal activities
  • Constantly using candles, incense, or other fragrances to hide the smell of marijuana
  • Increased conflicts with loved ones or friends
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Decreased motivation
  • Decreased interest in things they previously enjoyed
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Inability to fulfill work responsibilities
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Neglected personal appearance

Physical symptoms:

  • Loss of motor skills
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Develops a cough unrelated to illness
  • Decreased coordination
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Fatigue
  • Delayed reaction time

Mental symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Distorted mental perception
  • Difficulty thinking or solving problems
  • Trouble understanding how much time has passed, or wasting time
  • Lack of concentration
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Making poor decisions
  • Tendency to forget things during a conversation
  • Detachment from reality
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
  • Anxiety
  • Panic or fear reactions
  • Depression
  • Increased irritability
  • Agitation

Effects of Abuse

Effects of marijuana addiction

The effects of marijuana addiction depend largely on how much time an individual has been using marijuana. However, regardless of whether they are smoking marijuana or consuming it in a tincture oil, marijuana can be harmful to an individual’s health the longer they abuse it. People who have developed a dependence on marijuana or synthetic marijuana are typically less motivated and less satisfied with their lives. The following are other effects that individuals might experience as a result of long-term use of marijuana:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Greater risk of developing lung infections
  • Increased risk of respiratory tract infections
  • Memory impairment
  • Adverse learning effects
  • Greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
  • Potential to abuse alcohol
  • Higher risk of developing certain cancers
  • Poor academic performance
  • Participation in risky behaviors or illegal activities
  • Frequent interaction with the law
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who struggle with marijuana addiction

It is not uncommon for someone to live with a mental health disorder at the same time that they are struggling with an addiction. In many cases, some people use substances such as marijuana to try to control the symptoms of an existing mental health disorder. These are just some of the co-occurring disorders that are common among people who are experiencing marijuana addiction:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

San Juan Capestrano Hospital taught me techniques that I needed to be able to live a healthy life, without addiction.

– Carlos D.