Most people who are caught up in the world of addiction believe that Marijuana is one of the less harmful drugs. But we may have underestimated some of the risks, and we are still learning more and more about such risks.
In USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/27/risks-of-marijuana/10386699/ they mention that about 1 out of every 10 people who try marijuana will eventually fit criteria for being addicted to it. Although the drug does not seem to produce physical withdrawal symptoms in the majority of cases, people can definitely fit the criteria for being addicted to the substance. For example, people will crave the drug, they will engage in risky behaviors in order to get more of it in some cases, and they will obsess over the drug and think about it constantly when they don’t have it. Also, tolerance can develop to the drug and someone will have to continuously increase their dose in order to get the same effect. So although it may not have massively dangerous physical withdrawal symptoms, that does not mean that there is no addictive potential, because there definitely is.
In Live Science http://www.livescience.com/56290-marijuana-use-may-raise-risk-of-psychosis-relapse.html they mention that marijuana use increases the risk of a psychotic break, and that if people with psychosis are abusing marijuana it makes it much more difficult to treat them. This is disturbing information because many people who suffer from schizophrenia abuse a variety of drugs, many of which are “harder” drugs such as cocaine or heroin, and thus any marijuana use seems incidental and is minimized greatly. So the fact that it is such a big risk factor for increased mental problems is not encouraging, and no one really expects this kind of data. Everyone believes the drug to be rather harmless in comparison to the “harder” drugs that are being abused.
Several decades ago people were not really paying much attention to the idea that someone might be crashing a car due to a marijuana high. But because the marijuana of today is so much stronger than it used to be, we are finding more and more that people are getting into car accidents because they are intoxicated with marijuana. Again, this is something that most people do not even consider because in the past it was not really seen as much of a risk factor as the drug seemed to slow people down and make them more cautious. But again, today’s marijuana is so powerful that it is causing a serious increase in car accidents.
There are other risks as well. For example, there have been studies done on long term marijuana use that show how a heavy smoker has an increase risk of heart disease. There may be cancer risks too, though those studies are not as conclusive yet.
It is much more difficult to conduct such studies and get useful data than you may imagine. For example, think about the fact that many people who smoke marijuana regularly also smoke cigarettes.
Then try to determine if there is an increase risk of cancer among marijuana smokers, all while trying to determine what role the nicotine addiction may be playing in that. Or try to determine how marijuana may impact heart disease if a certain percentage of the smokers also drink alcohol on a regular basis. In other words, one of the problems with studying any drug is that other drugs tend to go well together, and therefore it can be difficult to isolate a single variable in a study like this.
It used to be that most treatment centers only really treated people for one of three things:
Alcoholism, opiate addiction, or stimulant abuse. Those were sort of the three big categories of people who were being treated for addiction or abuse problems. But now we see many people who are seeking out addiction treatment strictly for marijuana abuse.
Here is how marijuana can be addictive in an emotional or mental sense:
Let’s say that a person starts to smoke marijuana on a regular basis and they really like the high so they continue to do it. Over time, they end up using the drug in a variety of situations, both good and bad. So they may use marijuana in order to celebrate something, but they also use it when they are stressed out, frustrated, or dealing with serious issues in their life. All of these are certain to happen because they are abusing the drug daily. If you continue to abuse the drug on a daily basis then you are going to be self medicating with it every day, regardless of what you may be medicating.
In some cases the drug may be serving to increase your appetite or calm your nerves–not because you need it to do those things, but only because those are side effects of the drug.
Another massive side effect of using marijuana is that it completely medicates your emotional state. For example, say that you have a bad day and you are in a bad mood as a result. All sorts of bad news is piling up on you and nothing is going your way. You get home from a long and stressful day and you are upset and so you decide to use a large amount of marijuana as a result.
When you do this, when you use a large quantity of the drug, it actually medicates your mood and your emotional state almost completely. Of course the problems that created your mood do not go away or anything, but the emotions and the mood is almost completely erased. If you are shaking your head and wondering how this is possible then you probably have never abused a large quantity of marijuana all at once.
Now obviously drinking alcohol to the point where you pass out and reach oblivion is not the same sort of thing as smoking marijuana and being stoned, but there is a comparison here. Using heavy amounts of marijuana can make it so that your mood and your emotional state is completely reset. One, you won’t be able to focus on why you are upset in the first place, and two, you won’t even feel upset any more, at least temporarily.
So you can see how there is risk of addiction with marijuana abuse, because it medicates the mood and your emotional state so completely. Thus it becomes a form of escape. Anyone who is struggling with such addiction should consider the path of inpatient treatment.