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Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects of Marijuana Addiction

Written by Thomas Christiansen

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug and belongs to a class of drugs called cannabinoids. Marijuana stimulates cannabinoid receptors in the brain and can create a sensation of euphoria, relaxation and altered sensation. This high is the main reason that people use marijuana. Marijuana effects also include hunger and confusion. People who use marijuana often develop a craving for more marijuana and frequently become addicted to it.

Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

Symptoms of marijuana abuse can be both physical and social. Some of the physical symptoms of marijuana abuse include:

  • Excessive hunger
  • Confusion
  • Cravings for marijuana
  • Hallucinations
  • Worsening of any existing psychological disorders
  • Anxiety after marijuana use

While these physical symptoms may be experienced with marijuana addiction, there are also several social marijuana addiction symptoms that are likely to be noticed by friends or family members. These symptoms are common for any type of substance abuse and include:

  • Increased social isolation
  • Increased preoccupation with obtaining or using marijuana
  • Financial problems due to the continuous need to purchase marijuana
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Increase in social activities centered around marijuana use
  • Agitation or anger when confronted about marijuana use

If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it may indicate a marijuana addiction and that professional help should be considered

Side Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana has several side effects that often accompany its consumption, many of them uncomfortable and even dangerous at times. People using marijuana for the first time are more likely to experience marijuana side effects more severely than those who used marijuana before. Marijuana side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic reactions
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Reddened eyes
  • Impaired concentration
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Lack of coordination
  • Prolonged reaction time

While these side effects are rarely dangerous, it is possible that some of these side effects can worsen underlying mental health conditions. People who have a history of mental disorders may be more likely to experience worsening of their symptoms or increased side effects of marijuana use.

Side Effects of Long-Term Marijuana Abuse

With frequent and continual use of marijuana, long term effects may occur. One of these long-term effects is a condition called “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome” in which the person using marijuana develops cycles of nausea and vomiting. Another long-term side effect of marijuana use is lung problems in which there is increased production of phlegm, coughing and inflammation of the lining of the tubes in the lungs. Research into the possible lung problems that are caused by long-term marijuana smoking is still ongoing so there may be other lung problems that marijuana causes.

Regular, long-term marijuana use can also lead to significant cognitive problems and changes in the structure of the hippocampus of the brain. The brain damage that marijuana can cause over time has a greater effect on those who started using marijuana earlier in life.

Signs of Marijuana Overdose

Marijuana is not a drug that usually leads to fatal symptoms during an overdose. Marijuana overdose symptoms typically include severe anxiety and paranoia. In severe cases, marijuana overdose may create a severe psychotic reaction including delusions and hallucinations. Many individuals who overdose on marijuana to such an extent that they need to go to the hospital will likely experience psychological symptoms.

There is an increased risk of overdose on marijuana when it’s consumed as edibles, as it takes longer for the effects of marijuana to start in the edible form. This delay can lead people who are trying to get high to use more, as the high is not felt right away.

How Does Marijuana Work?

The mechanism of action of cannabinoids is not very well understood, but they seem to interact within the body’s endocannabinoid system. An endocannabinoid is a molecule produced in the body that our cells use to signal each other. Cannabinoids from marijuana are “exocannabinoids”, or cannabinoids that have been produced outside of the body and then introduced to the body via the consumption of drugs like marijuana.

So far, research shows that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating several bodily processes:

  • Appetite: Cannabinoids seem to regulate hunger and how much we eat.
  • Pain and inflammation: Cannabinoids play a role in when our body uses inflammation to help heal injuries. Since inflammation can become harmful or painful if it lasts too long, this is a target for future study.
  • Neuroprotection: Cannabinoids play a role in protecting brain cells in cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, epilepsy, ALS or Alzheimer’s.

Despite these possible medical applications, doctors do not know enough about marijuana to approve its use for medical treatments. The plant contains over 400 chemicals, and while some of those can be helpful and have been approved for use, others can be harmful. There is also potential for marijuana addiction, especially among youth, which may lead to adverse consequences.

If you or a loved one struggle with addiction, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative about addressing substance use disorders through individualized treatment programs. You deserve a healthier future, call today.


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