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

As its legalization has slowly made its way throughout the United States, the use of marijuana continues to rise and is one of the most popular substances of abuse.

Understanding Marijuana Abuse

Learn about marijuana abuse

Also referred to as weed, pot, and cannabis, the abuse of marijuana can cause many serious consequences within an individual’s life. Opposite of what most people might think, by abusing this substance, individuals are putting themselves at risk for experiencing social problems, occupational and academic setbacks, and broken relationships. Furthermore, those who are abusing marijuana are also more likely to suffer health complications. Despite these negative consequences, many individuals become trapped within a pattern of consistent marijuana abuse due to the desirable effects that doing so brings about. Contentment, relaxation, and a sense of detachment from one’s surroundings are known to result from the use of marijuana, and these effects can be so addictive that they keep individuals continually abusing this substance, even when negative consequences develop as a result of that use.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), when an individual abuses marijuana to an extent where his or her overall functionality is hindered, causing clinical impairment or upset, he or she might be suffering from cannabis use disorder. While this can be very challenging to defeat, with the utilization of professional treatment, the compulsion to keep using marijuana can be effectively overcome.


Marijuana abuse statistics

According to the APA, cannabinoids like marijuana are the most commonly abused of all psychoactive substances. The 12-month prevalence of cannabis use disorder amongst American adults above the age of 18 is approximately 1.5%. Rates of marijuana addiction are believed to be greater in men than in women, with 2.2% versus 0.8%.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for marijuana abuse

The causes and risk factors that have been linked to an increase in an individual’s likelihood of developing cannabis use disorder are further explained below:

Genetic: Those with a family history of substance abuse, including marijuana abuse, are at greater risk for suffering with similar substance abuse problems than those who do not share the same family history.

Environmental: Specific environmental factors can impact an individual’s likelihood of abusing marijuana and, in turn, grappling with cannabis use disorder. For instance, the APA reports that possessing a low socioeconomic status, living within an unstable family environment, suffering from abuse or neglect, smoking tobacco, or having a past history of academic failure can impact an individual’s likelihood of abusing marijuana. When individuals are surrounded by others who abuse this substance or other substances, they are more likely to engage in this same behavior.

Risk Factors:

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

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse

The signs and symptoms that can show that someone is battling with cannabis use disorder will vary from user to user. Some examples of the signs and symptoms that one might experience can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of marijuana abuse

The abuse of marijuana can cause a series of detriments within an individual’s life. Not only can psychosocial and cognitive functioning be negatively impacted, but one’s overall health can be placed in jeopardy as well. Some examples of effects that can develop in the face of chronic marijuana use can include:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

Cannabis use disorder can occur simultaneously with other mental health conditions. Some of these conditions can include the following:

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

Withdrawal and Overdose

Mairjuana withdrawal and overdose

The APA reports that when individuals suddenly cease their use of marijuana after having used it on a regular basis, they are at risk for struggling with symptoms connected to cannabis withdrawal syndrome. Withdrawing from marijuana is not as dangerous as withdrawing from other substances like alcohol or opioids, however it can still cause a significant amount of distress for a user. Some of the potential symptoms that can develop during the period of withdrawal from marijuana can include:

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

I was abusing marijuana to the point where I would solely rely on it whenever I was having low points in my life. The staff at Huntington Creek was able to help me find alternatives in feeling better.

– Former Patient
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