It goes by many aliases: pot, weed, dope, grass. Some call it harmless, some call it the gateway drug. Let’s talk about marijuana.
According to the Addiction Policy Forum, marijuana is the most-used substance after alcohol and tobacco. Of those who use marijuana, up to 10 percent may have some degree of substance use disorder.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant. The dried leaves and flowers of the plant contain THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a mind altering chemical. These dried herbs are smoked, vaporized, eaten, or brewed in teas.
When marijuana is consumed it travels through the blood to the brain. The brain receptors are over-activated by the drug and the user feels a sense of “high.” When this happens, the user might experience:
- A change in mood and increased heartrate
- Impaired memory and difficulty with problem solving or attention
- Altered senses or an altered sense of time
Occasionally, more extreme and dangerous side effects are felt like psychosis, delusions, and hallucinations.
Long-Term Consequences of Marijuana
In addition to breathing problems and a higher risk of lung infection, marijuana usage in pregnancy is also linked to brain development issues, low birth weight, and behavioral problems in babies. Mental illness factors, such as increased depression and anxiety as well as heightened symptoms in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, have also been attributed to marijuana use.
Treating Marijuana Use Disorder
There are no FDA approved medications for marijuana use disorder; however, therapy such as cognitive-behavioral, contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapies show promise.
For more information on marijuana use disorder check out https://www.addictionpolicy.org/post/what-is-a-marijuana-use-disorder and the Anti-Drug Coalition website adctusc.org.