Cannabis (Marijuana) Abuse

Addiction is a sneaky disease. At first, it just seems like a good time. Eventually, however, for some people, a good time becomes something much different. The beast of addiction takes hold and getting a fix becomes the priority. If you, or someone you love, suffer from an addiction to cannabis, you are not alone. A variety of treatment options can help you live a life free from the chains of addiction.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis Sativa is the botanical name for the plant that produces both hemp and marijuana. Marijuana, the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds, contains a variety of psychoactive compounds that produce a high. The most famous of these compounds is known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. A sticky resin created by making a concentrated version of the plant materials is known as hashish.

To better understand the scale of cannabis abuse in the US, the following statistics give a good overall perspective on just how prevalent this substance is today:

  • According to  the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 94 million people in the US admitted using cannabis at least once.
  • Among teens aged 12 through 17, 6.7% of them currently use marijuana.
  • In one year alone, over 240,000 ER visits involved marijuana use.
  • Across the nation, 40% of adult males involved in crime tested positive for marijuana.
  • According to US government estimates, marijuana production has increased tenfold in 25 years.
  • Marijuana users spent over $10.5 billion on the drug in one year alone.

It is also interesting to note that marijuana ranks second to alcohol as being involved in fatal automobile accidents.

How is Cannabis Used?

Most commonly, cannabis is smoked. It can be rolled into a cigarette, known as a joint. It can also be placed in a cigar and mixed with tobacco. This is known as a blunt. Smoking marijuana in a pipe, bong or other device is also popular. Some people take cannabis oil in pills, bake it into edibles or create a tea with the leaves.

Is Cannabis Medicine?

It is important, in an article about abuse, to discuss the popularity of so-called medical marijuana. In 23 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is currently legal for medical purposes. The benefits are still being researched, but it seems that in certain situations it may help alleviate suffering or even heal disease. Like any medication, however, potential for abuse, dependency and addiction abound. Cannabis, when used incorrectly, is as dangerous as any other drug.

Signs of Cannabis Use and Abuse

Many people depend on seeing drugs or drug paraphernalia to decide if a loved one is using drugs. However, it is easy to hide the physical evidence. Emotional and personality-based evidence is more difficult to change.

Signs of cannabis use include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of concern for personal safety
  • Inability to express thoughts/feelings

The first change, increased appetite, can take several forms. The most obvious form is physical appetite. People who are abusing cannabis can take in large quantities of food. This often causes weight gain. Other appetites, including the sexual appetite, can also increase when cannabis is abused.

People who abuse cannabis often lose their motivation. They can lose interest in friends, work , school or social activities they once enjoyed. They can lose sight of details around them, allowing messes to pile up.

The third sign, paranoia, is more abstract. It can be the typical “someone is out to get me” or it can be more subtle. New phobias, fears or avoidances should be seen as a possible warning sign for drug abuse or addiction.

Lack of concern for personal safety is a common theme with those who abuse drugs. They do things like drive cars into objects, walk on ledges, and jump off buildings because they see nothing wrong with it while under the influence. This symptom is also common with those who abuse cannabis.

The final symptom of cannabis abuse is the inability to express thoughts or feelings. A person who was formerly bright, articulate and easy to talk to will start being unable to find words or express the thoughts and feelings they have. A writer who can suddenly not put their pen to the page coherently is also a warning sign.

If you suspect that you, or someone you love, struggles with an addiction to cannabis, a variety of services are available to help you regain the life you had. The best of these programs, inpatient rehab is your best choice.   Beginning with detox, followed by rehabilitation and aftercare, an inpatient program can insure that you restart your life with the skills needed to maintain sobriety and achieve the success you have always desired.

Detoxification

The first step to a successful rehabilitation is detoxification. This means clearing the body of the addictive substance. For many substances, the physical symptoms can be quite severe. Thankfully, for most people, marijuana withdrawal tends to be mild.

Marijuana withdrawal typically involves a variety of emotional symptoms. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Depression/mood swings
  • Anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased sex drive

Some people also have physical symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping

All of these symptoms are temporary. Taking long soaking baths with Epsom salts, drinking extra fluids and otherwise being gentle with yourself is often all that is needed to alleviate these symptoms so the real work of rehab can begin. After the worst physical symptoms are evaluated and treated, the newly sober individual is transferred to the rehabilitation center.

Rehabilitation

Because the withdrawal symptoms are typically so mild, rehab centers often move patients directly into the rehab center after an initial evaluation. The real work of staying sober begins then. The newly sober individual participates in a variety of therapies designed to help them learn why they began using cannabis and how to cope with life.

At most centers, the rehab begins with a relationship being formed between a therapist and a newly sober individual. They work to learn what skills are missing and why the person turned to addiction to cope. Once these skills are identified, an individual case plan is formed.

For most people, rehab involves individual and family therapy to work on the dynamics that led to addiction. It also involves group therapy to build relationships and skills needed for life outside the rehab center. It also involves recreational therapies to help the newly sober addict develop interests in activities that can occupy their mind when they leave the center.

After the initial skills are developed, case management takes an even more individual turn. Individual career goals are discussed and skills are developed. Community based resources are located in preparation for the re-entry into society.

Sober Living/Aftercare Programs

Many rehab centers have a sober living program as an extension of their other programs. In sober living, the individual lives in the community, utilizes community-based support groups while continuing to work closely with their case manager and counselors. They must meet occupational, recreational and other goals as defined in their case plan. In some cases, they also continue to attend group counseling.

In sober living, the newly sober person is eased back into the real world. They begin to taste the freedom they lost in a manner that is controlled just enough. They agree to a variety of safe guards that keep them, as well as other residents, safe. When the program is complete, the goal is for them to feel good enough to completely re-enter the world with the confidence they formerly lacked.

Other Programs

Other programs for marijuana addiction include outpatient, partial hospitalization and inpatient detox programs. Outpatient rehab includes living at home while receiving community-based therapy, support groups and other services. Partial hospitalization involves going to a center for day services and then sleeping at home. Inpatient detox programs are typically very short term programs that just help the patient detoxify from the drugs but do not address the social issues.

All of these programs are less complete and lead to a lower success rate than inpatient rehab. These programs have a lower degree of accountability and higher relapse rate. They also do not provide the holistic support that is necessary for long term sobriety.

The good news is that inpatient programs exist. If you, or someone you love, is struggling with cannabis abuse, reach out. Help is available to lift you out of the hole you are in.