This article is sponsored by Ocean Breeze Treatment Centers

Marijuana (also known as some slang terms like weed, herb, grass, and ganja) is dry shredded leaves from the Cannabis sativa or hemp plant. It is typically smoked like tobacco in rolling papers or pipes. However, it is often mixed into foods like baked goods and tea when used for medical purposes.

Marijuana is increasingly used to treat diseases and for pain management.  Its use for medical reasons is now legal in more than 20 states. And, with many other states now pushing for the legalization of marijuana, its potential as an addictive substance is hotly debated. Cannabis enthusiasts often claim that marijuana is not addictive, but many professionals disagree. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about nine percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on the drug.

How can someone become addicted?
Daily consumption of marijuana increases the likelihood of addiction. NIDA also indicates that those who begin using marijuana in their teens are more likely to become dependent. Long-term use causes changes in the brain, and these changes increase in teens and young adults.

Can someone become addicted to medical marijuana?
Research into medical marijuana addiction is sparse, and there are no definitive studies. However, the Mayo Clinic surmises that the addiction rate is similar to that of recreational marijuana, finding that addiction occurs in “about 10 percent of users who start smoking before age 25.”

Withdrawal
According to NIDA marijuana addiction is only linked to a mild withdrawal syndrome. However, people who use marijuana regularly report the following symptoms:  irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, and restlessness. These symptoms typically peak within the first week after quitting. They can last up to two weeks.

Physical effects
Like cigarettes, smoking marijuana affects the respiratory system and can lead to breathing problems. However, its effects on the brain are the most alarming. NIDA states several studies have linked marijuana use to increase risk for mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and psychosis. These risks are more prominent in patients with preexisting propensity for those disorders.

Signs 
If you’re concerned your friend or family member may be abusing marijuana, here are some signs to look for according to Narcotics Anonymous: Red, bloodshot eyes; unwarranted laughter; euphoria; strongly increased appetite for snack foods or sweets; foggy, slow memory; artificially increased tendency to chatter or be sociable; lowered inhibitions; impaired judgment; dizziness; sedation; slow movement; lethargy; lack of activity.

Consider the following statistics related to marijuana usage:

New York: Marijuana usage among youth decreased from 2012 to 2013. – New York City Department of Public Health
Chicago: The most widely used illicit drug in Chicago, marijuana users accounted for 17 percent of drug related arrests in 2012. – National Institute on Drug Abuse
Boston: Annually, from 1999 – 2009, between 30 and 40 percent of high school students reported having used marijuana. Boston Public Health Commission
Philadelphia: In 2012, marijuana was present in 32.9 percent of positive drug tests. – National Institute on Drug Abuse
Atlanta: Marijuana users accounted for 16.3 percent of those seeking treatment for drug related issues in 2012. – National Institute on Drug Abuse
Baltimore: Arrests for marijuana possession increased by 34 percent from 2000 to 2010. – American Civil Liberties Union
Hartford: Hartford now has 1,403 registered medical marijuana users. – Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection
Pittsburgh: From 2005 – 2010, an average of 10.1 percent of adults in the Pittsburgh area admitted to having used marijuana in the past year. – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Minneapolis: About 30 percent of patients treated for marijuana-related issues were under 18 in 2012. – National Institute on Drug Abuse
Las Vegas:The average reported rate of marijuana use in past year was 11.2 percent from 2005 – 2010. – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Tampa: In 2012, marijuana was the second highest drug used among high school students. – Tampa Alcohol Coalition

 

Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer living in Denver. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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