Causes & Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

Since 1957, Azure Acres Treatment Center has given hope to individuals struggling with marijuana abuse and its lasting effects. Azure Acres provides residents high-quality alcohol and drug abuse treatment near Santa Rosa, California.

Understanding Marijuana Abuse

Learn about marijuana abuse

Marijuana is one of the most widely abused recreational drugs in the United States. Also known as tree, herb, pot, or weed, this substance is made up of dried flowers, leaves, and stems that come from the cannabis sativa plant. Containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or “THC”) as its psychoactive substance, the use of marijuana can produce short-term effects such as increased relaxation, mild analgesia, increased appetite, and changes in an individual’s sense of space and time. Marijuana can be consumed a number of ways, including through smoking it, adding it to food and eating it, or brewing it in tea and drinking it.

While many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, these lawful changes do not reflect the dangers that the use of marijuana can still produce. Continued marijuana abuse has been linked to a number of many dangerous outcomes, including possible permanent damages in the brain.

When an individual’s marijuana use starts causing serious impairment or distress, and when he or she is no longer able to control how much he or she is consuming or how often he or she is abusing marijuana, he or she may have developed cannabis use disorder. Luckily, there are comprehensive treatment programs that can help individuals addicted to marijuana abuse obtain the help they need to make the changes that will support a healthy lifestyle.


Marijuana abuse statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that nearly 19.8 million people throughout the U.S. have abused marijuana within the previous 30 days. NIDA also states that roughly 2.4 million citizens use marijuana for the first time each year, with nearly 78% of those first time users falling between the age range of 12 and 20. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) states that, in 2011, there were 456,000 emergency room visits for those who had been abusing marijuana.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for marijuana abuse

There are a variety of genetic and environmental factors that can impact an individual’s chances of abusing marijuana or of developing cannabis use disorder:

Genetic: Research regarding the heritability of substance use disorders shows that those who have parents and/or siblings with a chemical dependency issue are at a greater risk for also developing similar problems. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that genetic factors can make up nearly 80% of an individual’s risk variance for developing cannabis use disorder.

Environmental: Numerous environmental factors, such as academic failure, using tobacco, having access to marijuana, having an abusive or unstable home life, or socializing with those who abuse marijuana can add to an individual’s likelihood of developing cannabis use disorder. The use of marijuana by family members can also play a role in influencing an individual to participate in the abuse of this substance.

Risk Factors:

  • Having access to and being able to afford marijuana
  • Being abused, neglected, or otherwise exposed to trauma
  • Early involvement with substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness, substance abuse, and/or addiction
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Personal history of conduct disorder and/or antisocial personality disorder
  • Low socioeconomic status

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse

The abuse of marijuana and cannabis use disorder can be exhibited through a number of signs and symptoms, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Prioritizing marijuana abuse over friends, family, and significant activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Multiple unexplained absences from work
  • Engaging in risky, reckless, or otherwise dangerous behaviors
  • Use of incense to hide smell of marijuana
  • Declining performance at work
  • Acting secretively or deceptively regarding one’s activities and/or whereabouts
  • Having an odor of marijuana on one’s body or clothes
  • Possession of rolling papers, water pipes, and other drug paraphernalia

Physical symptoms:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased cravings for food
  • Lethargy
  • Impaired balance, coordination, and motor skills
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Bloodshot eyes

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired ability to concentrate or focus
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired ability to perceive the passage of time

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Unstable mood
  • Fear and/or paranoia


Effects of marijuana abuse

Continued marijuana abuse and cannabis use disorder that goes untreated can impact an individual’s physical, socioeconomic, and emotional health. Below are some of the most common potential effects of marijuana abuse:

  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Financial damage
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Diminished sexual functioning
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Family discord
  • Diminished cognitive functioning
  • Injury from impaired coordination and recklessness
  • Abuse of other substances
  • Breathing problems, including bronchitis
  • Compromised immune system
  • Heart damage

Co-Occurring Disorders

Marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

Numerous individuals who abuse marijuana or who are struggling with cannabis use disorder might also suffer from the following co-occurring conditions:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar I disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of marijuana withdrawal and overdose

When an individual has been a constant abuser of marijuana and then attempts to curb his or her use, or to stop entirely, he or she can go through a period of withdrawal that can be highly uncomfortable and produce the following symptoms:

  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Strong cravings for marijuana
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Appetite suppression
  • Agitation and irritability

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I have been in and out of treatment for years and could not remain sober for more than a couple years sometimes no more than 60 days. I attended groups and one on one therapy with my counselor there and this time something magical happened for me there. Azure Acres saved my life -- check this place out if you are looking for treatment!

– Former Patient