Marijuana Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & When To Get Help

Are you unsure whether you or your loved one is struggling with marijuana abuse? Read below to learn how to spot the warning signs.

Understanding Marijuana Abuse

Learn about marijuana abuse

Marijuana, which is also commonly referred to as weed, pot, and cannabis, is one of the most popular substances of abuse in the United States. Marijuana abuse can lead to many negative repercussions within an individual’s life, including social hindrances, academic and occupational issues, and problems with relationships. Furthermore, those who abuse marijuana are also at greater risk for suffering adverse health complications. Despite these negative consequences, many individuals find themselves stuck in a pattern of continually using marijuana due to the pleasurable effects that it can elicit. Relaxation, contentment, and a sense of detachment from one’s surroundings are known to result from the use of marijuana, and these effects can be enough to keep users continuing to abuse this substance, even when negative outcomes result because of it.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), when an individual abuses marijuana to the extent that it starts to hamper his or her ability to function normally, resulting in clinically severe impairment or distress, he or she might be struggling with cannabis use disorder. While this can be a challenging addiction to overcome, with the implementation of appropriate, professional care, the desire to keep abusing marijuana can be successfully overcome.


Marijuana abuse statistics

According to the APA, cannabinoids, particularly marijuana, are the most commonly used of all psychoactive substances. The 12-month prevalence of cannabis use disorder among American adults age 18 and above is about 1.5%. The rate of marijuana addiction is believed to be greater in males than in females, with 2.2% of men abusing this substance versus 0.8% of women.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for marijuana abuse

The causes and risk factors that have been known to impact an individual’s likelihood of grappling with a cannabis use disorder are discussed briefly below:

Genetic: Those who have a family history of substance abuse, including marijuana abuse, are more likely to struggle with the same type of substance abuse than those who do not possess this type of family history.

Environmental: Specific environmental factors can play a role in an individual’s vulnerability of abusing marijuana and ultimately suffering from the onset of cannabis use disorder. For example, according to the APA, possessing a low socioeconomic status, living within an unstable environment, experiencing abuse or neglect, smoking tobacco, or having a past history of academic failure can increase the odds that an individual starts abusing marijuana. When individuals are surrounded by others who abuse substances, whether it is marijuana or something else, they are more likely to engage in similar behavior.

Risk Factors:

  • Lacking inhibition
  • Having easy access to marijuana
  • Suffering from conduct disorder during childhood or adolescence
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Suffering from antisocial personality disorder
  • Being the victim of abuse and/or neglect

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse

The signs and symptoms that can show if an individual is grappling with cannabis use disorder will inevitably vary from user to user. However, some examples of such signs and symptoms can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Engaging in behaviors that could be deemed risky or reckless
  • Unexplained absences from work or school
  • Decline in performance at work or school
  • Withdrawing from friends and family members
  • Being in possession of drug paraphernalia
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed

Physical symptoms:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Experiencing the sensation of time slowing down
  • Perceptual disturbances

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Declined interest in things that one once found pleasurable
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety


Effects of marijuana abuse

The abuse of marijuana can lead to many detriments within an individual’s life. Not only can cognitive and psychosocial functioning be severely impacted, but one’s overall physical wellbeing can be compromised too. Examples of effects that can develop as a result of chronic marijuana abuse can include:

  • Familial strife, including divorce or loss of child custody
  • Suffering from an acute episode of psychosis
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Disturbed social relationships
  • Disturbances in one’s ability to perform academically, potentially leading to academic failure, suspension, or expulsion
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Onset of new, or worsening of preexisting, symptoms of mental health disorders
  • Disturbances in one’s ability to perform occupationally, potentially leading to job loss or demotion


Signs, symptoms, and effects of marijuana withdrawal

The APA reports that when individuals suddenly cease marijuana use after having used daily or almost every day for a long period of time, they put themselves at risk for suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from marijuana is generally not as dangerous as going through a process of withdrawal from other substances like opioids or alcohol, however it can still cause an individual to grapple with a significant amount of distress. Examples of possible symptoms that can occur during the period of withdrawal can include:

  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Sudden and unwarranted anger or aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Shakiness / tremors
  • Weight loss
  • Depressed mood

Co-Occurring Disorders

Marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

Cannabis use disorder can occur alongside other mental health conditions. Some examples of such disorders can include:

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
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