Can I Become Physically Dependent on Marijuana?

Can I Become Physically Dependent on Marijuana?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana is one of the most commonly abused illicit drugs in the US. With many states recently passing laws to legalize marijuana use (both for recreational and for medical use), people must understand how this drug works and its potential for abuse to reduce the dangers of dependency upon this substance.

Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa plant. It is a mixture of the dried, shredded stems, seeds and flowers of the plant, and it is typically green, gray or brown in color. The NIDA reports that there are at least 400 chemicals found in marijuana that could affect your health, the most-active ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol, or THC. THC is the mind-altering part of the drug that produces feelings of euphoria and that changes brain chemistry.

Although marijuana changes brain chemistry, it does not result in the same type of tolerance and physical dependence as other drugs do. For instance, opiates change the way the body perceives pain and actually begins doing the work that natural brain chemicals are supposed to do. This act leads to a dependence on the drugs to feel and function normally. On the other hand, heavy marijuana use can lead to a type of physical dependence, but most marijuana users develop a psychological addiction to the feelings the drug produces. Some studies show that chronic and long-term marijuana use can cause brain damage. In this way, the drug can be especially dangerous for young people, because their brains are still forming.

Because many states have legalized marijuana use both for medical and recreational use, it is also becoming easier to get this drug, as well as more acceptable for people to be high on the substance. People with a personal or family history of addiction, or those who struggle with addictive behaviors, have an increased risk of becoming psychologically addicted to the drug even when they use it for medical purposes. Most medical marijuana use is to promote appetite and to reduce nausea in those being treated for cancer. Doctors and their patients must carefully weigh the benefits and risks when considering the use of medical marijuana, especially because of this drug’s psychological addictive potential.

Find Help for Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana is not physically addictive in the same way as other drugs, but prolonged use of the substance can lead to psychological and sometimes physical dependence. If you or a loved one struggles with marijuana abuse, we are here to help. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about treatment options.