Marijuana is the name for the drug harvested from the leaves, flowers and stems of the hemp plant. When smoked, the drug produces a mild euphoria, a distortion of time, and the sharpening of some senses. While there are over 400 chemicals in marijuana – with little known of their combined effects on the body – it is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that produces the sought-after high. Marijuana grown and sold today is much more potent than that produced in the 1960s.
The debates over legalization of marijuana usually obscure the fact that the drug is definitely addictive. THC is quickly distributed first in the blood and then through other parts of the body, especially in areas of high fat content. In addicts, the drug can be detected by drug screens for as long as two months after last use.
Marijuana slows reaction time and can, with prolonged use, catalyze both panic attacks and paranoia. Daily use gradually destroys concentration and learning ability by impairing short-term memory. One of the symptoms of long-term addiction to marijuana is an amotivational syndrome, characterized by social withdrawal and lack of interest in achievement. It may be that the neurotrasmission system of the brain is impaired to such a degree that it cannot produce the neurotransmitter linked to positive feelings and social interaction.
Withdrawal from marijuana is not as uncomfortable as withdrawal from opiates, but the addict will find a general discomfort, irritability and disrupted sleep. Relapse potential is high unless the addict commits to a structured program of recovery.
Cross tolerance to all psychoactive drugs must be stressed, as many patients arrive in treatment believing that they can still drink alcohol if they abstain from marijuana and vice versa. The introduction of any psychoactive drug disrupts the limbic system of the brain and thus a return to active addiction.
Marijuana is especially of concern for teens and young adults. Because the adolescent brain is still maturing, the effect of addictive drugs is more pronounced and occurs more quickly. Too often, the behavior caused by the drugs is mistaken for a mental disorder and psychoactive drugs are prescribed that cause greater disequilibrium. As with adults, our medical team assesses each adolescent’s medication history and makes individual recommendations to parents on the necessity of each psychoactive drug. If a drug is removed, it is always tapered according to pharmaceutical protocols.
Rehab for marijuana is within reach. The problem is real. The time is now.
Marijuana is one of the most talked about plants in the world, and discussions are rife with mixed messages and mythologies about its effects on those who use it. Mixed messages are the results of decades of arguably biased research done on marijuana, funded by different organizational stakeholders in the legalization debate. When considering your use or that of a loved one, you must look beyond the media discussion and make informed decisions about the effects of marijuana and how it impacts our health, cognitive function, behavior and addiction potential.
The size and shape of two brain regions involved in emotion and motivation differ in young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week. Findings suggest that recreational marijuana use may lead to previously unidentified brain changes, and highlight the importance of research aimed at understanding the long-term effects of low to moderate marijuana use on the brain. (Society for Neuroscience, April 15, 2014). Marijuana can lead to cognitive problems and affect interpersonal communication, academic scores, and absenteeism – it can even result in an inability to manage emotions. Compromised values are often associated with use and can be seen in theft from family members and friends, loss of motivation and emotional stagnation or increases in anger, anxiety and frustration.
If a user of marijuana is smoking multiple times per week, the respiratory system is damaged by the residue – or tar – in marijuana. This will reduce the effectiveness of tracheal and bronchial cilia, hindering the body’s ability to fight infections, such as the common cold. This can escalate long term, contributing to the likelihood of bronchitis, emphysema and cancer.
In addition to adverse effects on the developing brain, marijuana also has an effect on the entire central nervous system, as well as on the digestive, reproductive and respiratory systems. This will vary depending on the amount and length of time used. Marijuana is a complex plant composed of 483 distinct chemicals. We currently have no way of predicting the rate and progression of these types of health problems resulting from human and marijuana-based biochemical interactions.
According the Uniform Substance Control Act, marijuana is not a medicine. Because of this law, research regarding its potential as a medication is not permitted in the US. However, many nations have done clinical trials on marijuana for a variety of ailments with mixed results.
Credible research in England, Netherlands, etc. shows that use of marijuana has therapeutic effects for some, but not all people, and none recommends smoking or vaporizing because of the risks of lung damage.
Marijuana is more accurately described as a food additive, similar to vitamins and food supplements, that has varying degrees of therapeutic value for the people who use it. It seems important to note here that just because a drug is prescribed does not mean addiction will be avoided. Addiction to prescribed narcotics is a leading cause for patients entering treatment. Understanding physiological addiction and the impact drugs have on individuals, prescribed or not, is imperative.
Many people believe that marijuana is harmless or non-addictive, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not uncommon for those smoking or otherwise consuming the substance to fall into self-destructive patterns common to addiction: isolation and anhedonia can develop if matters are left up to chance.
Fortunately, there is hope. By attending an accredited rehabilitation program, whether on an inpatient or outpatient basis, you or a loved one will learn the skills necessary to leave marijuana behind for good. Call Lakeside-Milam today to learn more.