Marijuana Addiction Signs & Symptoms

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Understanding Teen Marijuana Abuse

Understanding Teen Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana, also known as “pot” or “weed,” is a drug derived from the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetahydrocannabinol (THC). When consumed, either through smoking or eating, this drug produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation that make it extremely appealing to the user. Many individuals believe that marijuana is a harmless drug, but in fact marijuana use can cause a number of serious problems. Some examples of the negative impact that marijuana use can cause include poor lung functioning, decline in ability to learn, decline in academic achievement, and increased familial conflict. Furthermore, marijuana use among children and adolescents can have a detrimental impact on their brain development.  Therefore, if you believe your child is struggling with a marijuana abuse problem, professional treatment should be sought.



In the past six years, marijuana abuse has been on the rise among America’s youth. According to multiple studies, approximately 7% of 8th graders, 18% of 10th graders, and 23% of 12th graders used marijuana in the 30 days prior to the data collection. Additional studies have shown that over 6% of high school students use marijuana on a daily basis.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Marijuana Abuse

As is the case with many other substances of abuse, many experts have been unable to identify one single cause that leads a young person to begin using marijuana. The most commonly held belief is that it is a combination of many different factors, not just one cause, that play a role in marijuana abuse. Below are several factors that are associated with the development of marijuana abuse:

Genetic: Substance abuse and addiction have long been known to run in families. This means that children and adolescents who have first-degree relatives that have had substance abuse problems are at an increased risk for developing a problem with substances as well.

Environmental: In addition to a genetic predisposition, there are a number of environmental factors that place a young person at an increased risk for the development of marijuana abuse. For example, children and adolescents who spend a great deal of time in an environment where marijuana is used are more likely to use this substance than those who have not been exposed to the drug.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance use
  • Preexisting mental health condition
  • Presence of a medical disorder
  • Easy access to marijuana
  • Early exposure to the use of marijuana
  • Peer pressure
  • Poor stress management
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of parental involvement or poor parenting
  • Experiencing a traumatic event

Signs of Marijuana Abuse

Signs of Marijuana Abuse

The signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse will present differently in each young person and will depend upon certain factors such as the length of abuse and the amount of marijuana that a young person is abusing. Some of the most common signs and symptoms may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Sudden change group of friends
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia
  • Engagement in risky behaviors
  • Reduced motivation
  • No longer engaging in activities once enjoyed
  • Decreased academic achievement
  • Laughing at inappropriate times or acting silly
  • Being overly talkative or giggly
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Stealing money or possessions

Physical symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Glassy eyes
  • Increased hunger or eating more than usual
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Impaired coordination
  • Appearing disheveled
  • Increased heart rate
  • Mucus-filled cough

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Loss of memory
  • Disorientation
  • Distorted sensory perception
  • Losing one’s train of thought during conversation
  • Inability to focus
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Diminished motivation
  • Learning difficulties

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Fear of dying

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The regular use of marijuana can lead to the development of many different complications in a young person’s life, including dependence, which can make it very difficult for a young person to stop using the drug. The specific effects are going to vary from person to person, but some of the most common long-term effects a child may experience include:

  • School difficulties
  • Relationship problems
  • Familial conflict
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Increased aggression
  • Engagement in risky behaviors
  • Breathing problems
  • Lower intelligence
  • Development of mental health conditions
  • Increased risk for suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

It is extremely common for children and adolescents who abuse marijuana to meet the diagnostic criteria for an additional mental health disorder. In some instances the marijuana abuse is an attempt by the young person to self-medication the symptoms associated with an untreated or underdiagnosed mental health disorder. Examples of different disorders that can occur alongside marijuana abuse may include:

  • Additional substance abuse
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

When a child or adolescent has been using marijuana on a regular basis for a prolonged period, they may experience withdrawal symptoms should they suddenly stop using this substance. Symptoms of withdrawal are going to depend upon the specific young person, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Cramps
  • Cravings for marijuana
  • Depersonalization
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

We got our son back! You guys should be proud of all the great work you are doing to help troubled teens. Thank God for your program!

– Anonymous Parent

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