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The Symptoms and Effects of Marijuana Dependence

Marijuana dependence may not be as immediately dangerous as addiction to harder drugs like heroin or cocaine, but over time addiction to pot can have serious implications for the user and the people around them. Unfortunately, there is a general state of misconception among users that regular abuse of marijuana is benign, and this idea is furthered throughout drug culture despite significant evidence to the contrary. Examining the symptoms and effects of chronic, dependent marijuana use produces results that are alarmingly similar to harder drugs.

Like most addictions, marijuana dependence is defined primarily by three behaviors:

1.) Loss of Control

For marijuana users, this often means repeated attempts to quit without success. This is generally accompanied by the need for more and more of the drug in order to “get high,” often requiring repeated use throughout each day. This loss of control is also characterized by a lack of knowledge about how much pot is being used and when.

2.) Obsession

Marijuana dependence can also be described as an obsession considering that the user’s life generally becomes focused around the drug. At this stage an addicted person will be actively ensuring that they have a steady supply of pot, including by resorting to crime when necessary. They’ll also isolate themselves from non-users and people they see as authority figures, and in many cases they will go to extremes to obtain more of the drug. Their entire lives center on marijuana including their conversations, actions, behaviors, thoughts and future plans.

3.) Irrational Continuation

One of the most telling signs of true addiction is the continuation of substance abuse despite real, prevalent and worsening consequences. Users may even be aware of the problem and progressive consequences but feel unable to stop using nonetheless.

It should be noted that the immediate signs of marijuana use may not be the same as the signs of dependence. According to a Mayo Clinic publication on the symptoms of drug addiction, the prominent physiological and behavioral signs of active marijuana abuse include:

“A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
*Poor memory
*Increased blood pressure and heart rate
*Red eyes
*Decreased coordination
*Difficulty concentrating
*Increased appetite
*Slowed reaction time
*Paranoid thinking” (1)

There may be some correlation between chronic marijuana use and the exacerbation of underlying emotional disorders like bipolar or schizophrenia. While it is known that addiction often co-occurs with these types of conditions, it’s unknown whether marijuana use specifically can directly cause an emotional disorder to develop, or whether a pre-existing condition can make someone more susceptible to substance abuse and addiction. Both seem to be plausible theories.

Chronic marijuana use also has the potential to bring about the following sexual and reproductive health issues, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians:

“Reduced testicular size
*Lower testosterone levels
*Decreased libido
*Menstrual abnormalities
*Impotence
*Change in sperm morphology/motility
*Infertility
*Gynecomastia
*Abnormal ova
*Fetal exposure
*Prolonged childbirth
*Reduced fertility in offspring” (2)

Because the consequences of marijuana dependence are so severe, it’s important to reach out for help right now if you or someone you know isn’t able to break free from this drug on their own. We have addiction experts standing by 24 hours per day to provide you with an immediate, free and confidential consultation. We can get you the help you need, but we can’t do anything if you don’t call.

(1) Mayo Clinic Drug Addiction – Symptoms Mayo Clinic Staff
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-addiction/ds00183/dsection=symptoms
Accessed 06/11/2012

(2) JOHN R. HUBBARD, M.D., PH.D., SHARONE E. FRANCO, M.D., and EMMANUEL S. ONAIVI, PH.D., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee
Am Fam Physician. 1999 Dec 1;60(9):2583-2588. Marijuana: Medical Implications
http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/1201/p2583.html
Accessed 06/11/2012

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More