Is Marijuana Addiction Real?

Since Washington State legalized marijuana in 2012, several positive outcomes have been recorded. However, just because a drug is legal does not mean it is not dangerous. Marijuana, just like alcohol, can be addictive. It is important to understand addiction itself to determine whether or not someone’s marijuana habits fit the criteria for addiction.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is now recognized as a chronic brain disorder in which the pleasure center of the brain has become over-stimulated. When the pleasure center is activated by a particular activity, dopamine floods the brains. Drugs, including marijuana, produce a particularly strong release of dopamine. The brain attempts to protect itself from the onslaught by ‘shutting down’ some of the dopamine receptors, reducing the effect of the substance.

This is how a person becomes addicted to a certain substance or activity; addicts crave the release of dopamine while their brain simultaneously diminishes its effects, creating a feedback loop in which addicts require more and more of the drug to achieve the same good feelings. Once using the drug becomes compulsive, it can be called an addiction.

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Not everybody is extremely susceptible to addiction, but certain predispositions can determine whether or not you are vulnerable:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • PTSD
  • Depression/other mental health issues
  • Stress
  • Socio-economic status
  • Difficult home life
  • Youth

 If you have things in your life that are rewarding and pleasurable, such as a strong social network or a passionate hobby, you are less likely to find yourself relying on marijuana to feel good. These choices are crucial to feeling like your life is fulfilling.

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Teens are particularly at risk for marijuana addiction. The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board states that marijuana use before the age of 14 made youths four times more likely to become addicted by adulthood. The human brain continues to develop until about age 25, so teens are very vulnerable to the possible negative effects of marijuana. These can include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Struggles with learning and memory
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Distorted perceptions of reality

One study looked at 127 teens from ages 14-19, of whom 90 participants identified marijuana as their primary substance of use. 84 percent met the criteria for addiction, and two-fifths experienced withdrawal symptoms from reduced or discontinuing use. Withdrawal is one of the biggest indicators of addiction, and can take a variety of forms:

  • Increased irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Strong cravings

Talking to teens about drugs in general, and marijuana, in particular, is vital to helping them make good choices. Some tips for creating a constructive dialogue around drugs include starting the conversation when your kids are young, finding out what they already know or think they know, and being honest about your own experiences. For more tips and information on talking to your teen about drugs, read this article.

Help for Marijuana Addiction

Asking for help is never easy, but treatment is available for marijuana addiction. The same study mentioned earlier found that recognition was one of the most powerful tools for somebody battling marijuana addiction. Recognizing and accepting that a problem exists makes it easier to get the treatment you need.

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Take that first step with The Recovery Village Ridgefield in Washington State. We offer a holistic approach to your recovery, with equal emphasis placed on strengthening your mind, body, and spirit. Our treatment plans are tailored to your individual needs and backed by support from health professionals and people who have been in a similar situation to yours. Take time today to learn more about admissions.