Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US. In fact, according to statistics published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one in four Americans admit to having used marijuana at least once in their lives.
In comparison to other illicit drugs, like heroin and cocaine, for example, the effects of marijuana are significantly mild in nature. However, extended use of marijuana can lead to a variety of health complications, of which, dependency is one of the most common. And although marijuana dependency may seem less severe than that of more powerful narcotics, its effects are evident in several areas of both physical and mental health.
What Are the Signs of Marijuana Addiction?
Like addictions to other drugs, the signs of marijuana dependency can vary on an individual basis. However, the most common signs and symptoms of dependency on marijuana include the following:
- Frequent thoughts of marijuana.
- Psychological cravings for the drug.
- Physical symptoms, like nervousness, insomnia or anxiety, when use is discontinued. Also common are behaviors such as aggression, irritability and restlessness.
- A loss of interest in daily activities, including school, work and/or hobbies.
- Decreased cognitive function, difficulties with concentration, memory loss and mental sluggishness.
- Social isolation and the inability to maintain relationships.
- Depression that worsens with continued use of marijuana.
- Emotional apathy.
- Reckless behaviors.
- Continued use of marijuana, even when signs of dependency are evident.
- Sexual dysfunction and/or decreased sex drive.
- Chronic fatigue or lethargy, sleeping at odd hours, etc.
- Fluctuations in weight and changes in eating behaviors.
How is Marijuana Addiction Treated?
The first step in dealing with marijuana dependency is acceptance of the problem. Denial is common among marijuana users, and many refuse to seek treatment for their dependency on the drug. While friends and family may try to persuade the addict in question to get help, many refuse until they, too, are aware of their dependency on marijuana.
Once marijuana dependency is recognized, seeking treatment is essential in protecting physical and psychological health. As in the treatment of other types of addiction, a number of methods are often used in approaching marijuana dependency. For example, substance abuse treatment facilities often utilize the following methods to treat marijuana dependency:
- Talk therapy. This treatment, which involves one-on-one counseling sessions with a trained mental health professional, will help individuals get to the source of their addiction to marijuana, as well as formulate coping strategies for maintaining sobriety.
- Group therapy. Like one-on-one counseling sessions, group therapy allows patients to speak freely about their experiences with addiction, but also allows patients to provide support and accountability for other members of the group. In group therapy, the sharing of success stories and coping mechanisms can increase the odds of achieving and maintaining abstinence from marijuana and other illicit substances.
- Medication. It’s not uncommon for individuals to use marijuana as a means to self-medicate symptoms of depression, anxiety or other illnesses. In these cases, professionals at rehabilitation facilities will address underlying symptoms and treat them appropriately. This often includes the use of medications such as antidepressants, anti-psychotics or anti-anxiety drugs.
- Aftercare. Continued counseling, group therapy and other services are often offered by substance abuse rehab centers. This provides an enormous source of support to recovering addicts and helps reinforce lessons learned during treatment.