Marijuana Abuse Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Addiction

Learn about young adult marijuana abuse

Marijuana, also called pot, weed, or herb, is a dried mixture of leaves, stems, and flowers that have been obtained from the plant cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive substance chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is this chemical that is responsible for the high that users feel when ingesting marijuana.

Marijuana is usually smoked in hand-rolled joints or pipes; however this drug can also be eaten, typically by being added to certain foods while cooking. Due to the drug’s ability to produce relaxed, euphoric effects marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. While many believe that marijuana is a completely harmless drug, long-term abuse is said to have some addictive potential, which can lead to the development of many harmful effects. Professional treatment for marijuana abuse is strongly advised.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for marijuana abuse

There are a number different factors as well as individual characteristics that place an individual at an increased risk for the development of a marijuana abuse problem. Some of these factors are described briefly below:

Genetic: Extensive research points to a genetic predisposition for increasing an individual’s chance for marijuana abuse and addiction. Those who have parents that struggled with addiction are much more likely to develop an addiction themselves than are people who do not have a family history of addiction.

Environmental: Experiencing a childhood trauma, growing up in a home where marijuana was used on a regular basis, lacking appropriate coping skills, and having friends who use drugs can place an individual at a significantly higher risk for abusing marijuana themselves.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Preexisting mental health disorder
  • Peer pressure
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor stress management
  • Exposure and access to marijuana from a young age

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse in young adults

There are many signs and symptoms that are associated with marijuana use and abuse. Specific symptoms and their intensity are going to vary from person to person depending on a number of factors. The following are among the more common indicators that a person has been abusing marijuana:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Unexplained decline in performance on the job
  • Lying, secretiveness, and other deceptive behaviors
  • Declining attention to grooming and personal hygiene
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (such as roach clips, small pipes, and bongs)
  • Fits of talkativeness and laughter

Physical symptoms:

  • Reduced coordination
  • Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes
  • Sleepy appearance
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Having a distinct odor
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty thinking
  • Distorted sensory perceptions
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Confusion and/or disorientation
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Having the sensation that time is passing slowly
  • Inability to organize & express coherent thoughts

Psychosocial symptoms: 

  • Temporary feelings of reduced anxiety or stress
  • Sadness or depressed mood
  • Panic and/or anxiety
  • Feelings and expressions of paranoia
  • Oscillating between euphoria and depression
  • Mood swings
  • Acting in an agitated or irritable manner
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once important

Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Effects of marijuana abuse on young adults

While all of the long-term effects of marijuana abuse are still not fully known, multiple studies have shown that prolonged marijuana abuse can lead to the development of serious health concerns. Additionally, it is not uncommon for those who abuse marijuana to display difficulties in other areas of their life. Some of the most common long-term effects of marijuana abuse include:

  • Contributes to the development of neck and head cancer
  • Impaired immune system
  • Reduced resistance to common illnesses such as a cold
  • Increased risk for lung damage and infections of the upper respiratory system
  • Reduction of male sex hormones
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Greater likelihood of heart attack
  • Weight gain
  • Additional substance abuse
  • Reduced ability to learn and retain information
  • Personality changes
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Development of delusions and hallucinations
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor work performance
  • Legal problems

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders we treat

Marijuana is often referred to as the “gateway drug” because those who abuse this substance have a much higher probability of using other dangerous drugs. In addition to additional substance use disorders, there are a number of mental health conditions that commonly co-occur with marijuana abuse. Some common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts

Effects of Withdrawal

Effects of marijuana withdrawal

Individuals who have abused marijuana for long periods of time are likely to develop number of withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. The following are among the more common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite and weight loss
  • Stomach cramps and digestion problems
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability

We are affiliated with the following organizations, which provide accreditation, education, and training to ensure quality behavioral health and addiction treatment.
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)
  • Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council
  • The Jason Foundation