Causes & Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

At Desert Hills, we believe that understanding the signs, symptoms, and possible effects of marijuana abuse is an important part of the effort to get help for yourself or your loved one. This information can help you identify the problem and begin to explore solutions. Education can be your first step towards recovery from marijuana abuse

Understanding Marijuana

Learn about marijuana and substance abuse

An illicit drug that can be smoked, brewed, or mixed with food is marijuana. Also know as pot, weed, bud, or dope, marijuana contains a mind-altering chemical known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is believed to cause the associated high and hindered brain functioning when a person uses this substance. Children and adolescents who use marijuana often experience feelings of relaxation and detachment from the world around. Oftentimes, these sensations can come at the expense of how a youth performs at school, home, and in the community. Additionally, there are a number of health risks that are involved with ongoing use of marijuana and individuals who use this substance are frequently at risk for developing symptoms synonymous with a mental health condition. Ceasing use of this drug can prevent these adverse effects from happening. Lastly, children and adolescents who receive care for this type of substance abuse problem are known to have improved performance in school and can go on to develop into fully functioning and well-adjusted adults.


Marijuana addiction statistics

Studies that examined the prevalence of marijuana use among children and adolescents have concluded that the use and/or abuse of this drug is high among young people. One such study found that over 6% of high school-aged youth use this substance on a daily basis. Another study found that 7% of 13 and 14 year olds, 18% of 15 and 16 year olds, and 23% of 17 and 18 year olds have used this harmful substance in the last month. Sadly, research suggests that these estimates will continue to rise among younger individuals.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for marijuana addiction

Addiction specialists and researchers agree that a number of influences can ultimately determine whether or not a person will use or abuse marijuana. Consider the following explanations for the causes and risk factors of marijuana use:

Genetic: A substantial amount of research has concluded that a person can have a genetic predisposition to the development of a substance abuse problem. Especially in those who have a first-degree family member with chemical dependency concerns, there is a high likelihood that the use and/or abuse of drugs, such as marijuana, will occur. In lieu of this discovery, it can be said that an individual’s genetics can greatly influence the chances a person will abuse substances, including marijuana.

Physical: Cannabinoid receptors, also known as CBRS, are found in every human brain. These receptors are responsible for maintaining coordination, perceptions of time and senses, and the forming and storing of memories within the brain. Additionally, CBRS are in charge of helping a person make good-decisions based on other information that is transmitted in the brain. Individuals who use or abuse marijuana damage these receptors because of their drug use and ultimately hinder the brain’s ability to perform the aforementioned operations. The symptoms that subsequently manifest are those that infer a person is under the influence of marijuana.

Environmental: The environment in which one is raised and other influences can be very impressionable on a child or adolescent. For example, if a young person is exposed to marijuana use at home, there is a higher likelihood that he or she will eventually use this substance. Additionally, if marijuana use is present in a youth’s home or if a young person’s peers are using marijuana, he or she may also use this drug if it is easily accessible. If a child or adolescent lacks the necessary skills to resist substance use, especially if exposure to this drug occurs early in life, the risk for experimentation and eventual abuse increases exponentially.

Risk Factors:

  • Early exposure to marijuana use
  • Peer pressure
  • Lack of appropriate coping skills
  • Family history of substance use or addiction or mental health condition(s)
  • Preexisting mental health condition or conditions
  • Easy access to marijuana

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction

Indicators that suggest a person is under the influence of marijuana can vary depending on the frequency and amount of this drug that is being used. Moreover, if an individual is a chronic user of this substance, the behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms of marijuana abuse can also be vast with varying degrees of severity. If you suspect that your child is battling a problem with marijuana, consider the presence of the following symptoms and consider treatment to help with this type of substance abuse problem:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors/ criminal activity
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Increased family conflict
  • Sudden change in peer group
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia
  • Presenting with drug-seeking behaviors
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Decreased inhibition
  • Seemingly uncontrolled laughter

Physical symptoms:

  • Hypertension
  • Coughing
  • Reduced coordination
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Bloodshot and/or glassy eyes
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Intense hunger pangs
  • Fatigue
  • Disheveled appearance

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Learning impairments
  • Poor decision-making
  • Exacerbation of preexisting mental illness symptoms
  • Impaired memory
  • Detachment from reality
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Psychosocial symptoms: 

  • Depressed mood
  • Increased irritability
  • Agitation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Declined interest in things that were once enjoyed


Effects of marijuana addiction

The length of time a person uses marijuana is known to greatly affect the likelihood of certain consequences occurring in an individual’s life. Additionally, the amount of marijuana used can also render a number of effects that can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing. The following effects are examples of what could happen to a person in the event marijuana is used or abused on an ongoing basis without therapeutic intervention to end this type of substance use:

  • Impaired memory
  • Reduced intellectual functioning
  • Poor academic performance
  • Engaging in risky or criminal activity
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Elevated risk for the development of depression, anxiety, and/or schizophrenia
  • Elevated risk for the development of certain cancers
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Tachycardia
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Hindered learning abilities
  • Use, abuse, and/or dependence on other drugs and/or alcohol

Co-Occurring Disorders

Marijuana addiction and co-occurring disorders

Substance use is commonly associated with the presence of another mental health condition or conditions. Oftentimes, a person begins using a drug, such as marijuana, to cope with the distressing symptoms of a mental illness. The following disorders are examples of such disorders that are frequently diagnosed in a person who uses or abuses marijuana:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Conduct disorder

Withdrawal and overdose

Learn about marijuana withdrawal and overdose

A person is likely to experience a number of psychological and physiological effects when ongoing usage of marijuana ceases. These effects are symptomatic of withdrawal from marijuana and can include the following:

  • Intense cravings for continued marijuana use
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • Depressed mood
  • Increased irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anger

Recovery Really Is Possible

I was really struggling emotionally, but now I have a new outlook on life.

– Amber S.