Many people innocently start using marijuana with no negative intent. However, marijuana can lead to addiction in 1 in 11 or 9% of users and that number jumps to 17% when use begins early in the teenage years . In other words, if you start using marijuana before turning 18, you are 4 to 7 times more likely to become addicted.
To put this in perspective, 32% of tobacco, 15% of alcohol, 23% of heroin and 17% of cocaine users become addicted . Compared to other addictive substances, marijuana seems to be less addictive.
Addiction is defined as “chronic, relapsing disorder, that is characterized by a powerful motivation to continuously engage in an activity despite it’s despite persistent negative consequences”.
But what are the real consequences? What are the negative health consequences of marijuana use?
Marijuana’s Effects on Brain Development
One concern is how marijuana use affects brain development. Brain development continues until a person reaches 21 years of age, and from adolescence till 21, brain remains particularly sensitive to THC, the active compound of marijuana.
Several studies found less neural connections in certain parts of the brain, those that control learning and memory, impulse control, self-awareness and self-discipline. However, such negative effects may be reversible and not permanent, one study  found out 4-week abstinence from marijuana use, was enough to recover from negative effects.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
The short-term effects of marijuana are well-established. Users generally claim to feel less self-conscious, more relaxed, and their short-term memory and time perception are often impaired. This of course, greatly affects motor functions. As marijuana use increases, emergency room visits due to marijuana use has also increased. This increase is largely due to people driving under the influence, with an impaired ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Can You Overdose on Marijuana?
So far, unlike many of the other addictive substances, no “deaths from marijuana overdose” have been established. In that respect, the belief is that one is likely not at risk of overdosing on marijuana (when used alone), even when used in large quantities.
Can Marijuana affect School Performance and Lifetime Achievements?
Mental impairment becomes even more of an issue for school-age children. Marijuana use is associated with lower grades in high school, and increased dropout rates from high school.
Beyond schooling years, lifetime achievements are greatly reduced from heavy marijuana usage. This can be seen in lower household income, feeling unsatisfied with life, unemployment, greater need for social assistance, and even criminal activity. However, causality is not established with those other confounding factors. We don’t know if marijuana causes low income, unemployment, depression, etc or those confounding factors cause marijuana use, to deal with emotional stress.
Potential Benefits of Marijuana Use
As discussed above, there are several negative effects of using marijuana, but are there also legitimate medical benefits and do those benefits outweigh the risk?
National Academies have published a review of all available research on both health risks and medical benefits of marijuana, in 2017 .
In this review, they found conclusive or substantial evidence that marijuana can be used effectively for the following conditions:
- For the treatment of chronic pain in adults
- For the treatment of nausea and vomiting and appetite loss in chemotherapy patients (oral use)
- For treatment of spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (oral use)
However, they also suggest that more research has to be done in many areas regarding marijuana.
Research is restricted by 2 major factors:
- In the jurisdictions that cannabis is illegal, only negative effects of marijuana can be researched and funded by the government, due to legal limitations.
- Pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to fund marijuana research because it is a plant and cannot be patented. Without drug patents, large pharmaceutical companies are worried their investment in research will have no return on investment.
Those looking towards using marijuana for any condition other than the ones listed above, will have to wait for more research to be done for more conclusive results.
What about withdrawal? If someone addicted to marijuana wants to stop, what symptoms can they experience? Withdrawal syndromes,  effect 50% of daily users, and they typically begin 1-2 days after stopping, peak at 2-6 days, but the cravings, sleeping problems, nightmares, anger, irritability, and nausea, goes away after 1-2 weeks. Medically, these symptoms are considered to be relatively mild addiction withdrawal effects, and comparable to the withdrawal period of coffee addiction. To put things into perspective, alcohol addiction kills 10 times people than all illegal drugs combined, and tobacco kills 25 times more people than all the illicit drugs combined. While marijuana has no known deaths from overdose, it can greatly reduce one’s output and lead to the use of more dangerous drugs.
How to Combat Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana addiction can be a difficult obstacle to overcome alone. At Treatment Centers XL, we want you to know that you’re not alone and there are marijuana addiction treatments available to help you recover. We have curated special treatments for our patients including drug abuse programs which vary according to the severity of addiction. Contact us today for more information on our treatments and programs.