Side Effects of Chronic Marijuana Use

Side Effects of Chronic Marijuana Use

Marijuana laws are changing around the US, and many people are adjusting their beliefs about it. Advocates are quick to promote the idea that this drug is not addictive and maybe even harmless. A significant amount of misinformation has been spread about marijuana use and abuse, and as a new generation decides what its response to pot will be, it is important to understand its psychological and physical ramifications. Chronic use has caused millions to become emotionally dependent on marijuana. Pot is definitely not a risk-free high.

Physical Side Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Advocates for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana are quick to point out the fact that the drug is not as physically addictive as alcohol or cigarettes. Physical addiction is defined as the state in which a person experiences symptoms of physical withdrawal when a given substance is no longer in his or her system. Substances like opiates and alcohol replace natural pain or mood regulating substances in the brain. Addicts are unable to feel good—or even normal—without a constant supply of these substances. If a heroin addict, for instance, stops using the drug, he or she will experience pain, flu-like symptoms, tremors, sleep disorders and other physiological symptoms until a proper chemical balance is re-established in the brain. It is true that chronic marijuana abusers will not experience physical withdrawal symptoms, but that does not mean that the drug is safe by any means. As with all addictive substances, the real power behind pot abuse is the psychological addiction that develops.

Psychological Side Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Psychological addiction is often much more difficult to diagnose and treat than physical dependence. Any substance, or behavior, that causes the brain to experience pleasure or that provides a relief of physical or emotional pain or distress can become addictive. The brain recognizes this relief in a subconscious way and then craves it very powerfully. In a healthy person, this process reinforces things like exercise, hard work, sexual bonding, appetite and personal discipline. Substances like marijuana, however, hijack the brain’s natural process for learning and re-wire neural pathways around whatever process or experience provides that high. A chronic pot smoker may not experience typical physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop smoking, but they will likely experience the following psychological symptoms:

  • Increased irritability when not using pot
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced motivation to accomplish goals or be successful
  • Quick boredom
  • Lack of ability to concentrate or remember
  • Paranoia
  • Sexual dysfunction or changes in libido
  • Feelings of pervasive sadness or depression

The brain knows that all it needs to feel relief is some marijuana. It will use every psychological tool at its disposal to keep that relief coming. These cravings happen in a part of the brain that is much more influential over behavior than conscious thought or will.

Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

Chronic marijuana use causes a wide range of physical and emotional side effects including the following:

  • Frequent lung infections
  • Chronic cough
  • Colds and other virus susceptibility
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased reflexes (slowing of the decision making and reaction process)
  • Increasing tolerance (needing more and more of the drug in order to feel the desired high)

Long-term marijuana abuse often causes people to experience memory problems, an inability to concentrate and a significantly reduced motivation to do well in school or on the job. Chronic pot users are often typified by their lack of motivation to accomplish anything. Their relationships are reconfigured as they lose interest in anyone or anything that does not involve getting high. Over time, their very personality can change.

Effective Marijuana Addiction Treatment

One of the most difficult aspects of marijuana addiction treatment is convincing a person that he or she needs help. Chronic pot smokers often don’t believe that they have a problem and aren’t particularly motivated or interested in getting clean. Once a person does decide that he or she has had enough and is ready for a change it can be very difficult for them to stop getting high without switching to alcohol or another drug. This is because of the underlying emotional issues that drive the addiction. Until and unless the pot addict recognizes and decides to address his or her co-occurring emotional issues it is unlikely that any sobriety will last. With a thorough and accurate diagnosis, however, this psychological dependence on marijuana can be treated very effectively.

The most effective marijuana abuse rehabilitation programs focus on developing a comprehensive and holistic treatment program for each individual client. While the details will vary from person to person, the following are some of the most effective therapeutic tools in the treatment of emotional marijuana addiction:

  • Individual counseling and diagnosis of all mental health issues
  • Support group meetings and group counseling sessions
  • Introduction to healthy distress coping skills
  • Education about how marijuana addiction works
  • Family and marriage counseling when appropriate
  • Nutrition and physical fitness programs
  • Arts therapy
  • Opportunities to help others with their recovery process

In some cases, these programs are residentially based while others are offered on an outpatient basis.

24-Hour Marijuana Abuse Helpline

If you would like more information about chronic marijuana abuse or treatment or if you are concerned about the drug use of a friend or loved one, we can help. Our toll-free helpline is manned 24-hours a day by caring staff members who understand what you are going through. There are no strings attached, so you have nothing to lose by picking up the phone. This call could be your first step into a new life that is free of marijuana dependence. Call now.