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Drug Addiction

Cannabis-Related Disorders (Marijuana)

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D.

Cannabis (Marijuana) Use Disorder

The diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder were previously reviewed. These criteria apply to cannabis use disorder.

marijuana plantsThe more commonly used word for cannabis is marijuana. Other names are pot, hash, weed, Buddha grass, dope, ganga, herb, and reefer. Cannabis is a plant that contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This ingredient makes marijuana an addictive substance. The dried marijuana leaves are smoked. The THC rapidly enters the bloodstream from the lungs producing an immediate "high."

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance. When young adults experiment with drugs, alcohol is usually the first drug they try. Marijuana is a close second.

In the United States, approximately 5% of people age 12 and older meet the criteria for a cannabis use disorder. Cannabis use disorders are more common in males than females. Marijuana interferes with the ability to carry out daily routines. Regular cannabis use is associated with amotivational syndrome (AS). The AS describes a lack of ambition or desire to accomplish anything.

Cannabis addiction develops gradually. The pattern begins with infrequent, occasional use. Gradually this increases to more regular and frequent use. Because marijuana intoxication does not produce many readily observable symptoms, people often smoke marijuana throughout the day. Cannabis use disorder among adults typically involves daily use despite harmful problems. Frequent users of marijuana often use other drugs as well. The most common are nicotine, alcohol, and cocaine.

Marijuana can alleviate the symptoms of some medical disorders. For example, marijuana has reduced side-effects of chemotherapy; weight loss that accompanies AIDS; and chronic pain. However, the medical use of marijuana remains controversial. Public misperception and legal controversies have impeded research progress (Onaivi, 2005).

Cannabis (Marijuana): Withdrawal

If cannabis use is discontinued after prolonged (daily or almost daily) use, over a period of several months, withdrawal may occur. Symptoms include irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, sleep disturbance, and restlessness. At least one physical symptom is required for diagnosis such as fever, chills, tremors, sweating, and abdominal pain.

Effects of Marijuana: Cannabis intoxication

Cannabis (marijuana) intoxication develops rapidly. It usually begins with a feeling of euphoria (a "high"). It then leads to anxiety; a lack of coordination; reduced judgment; memory problems; decreased alertness; and difficulty engaging in social interactions. Because people intoxicated on cannabis have impaired memory, they tend to lose their own train of thought. They cannot follow a conversation very well. Thus, their attempts at conversation can be disjointed and sometimes nonsensical. Cannabis intoxication may also lead to increased appetite (the "munchies"); dry mouth ("cottonmouth"); persistent cough; reduced heart rate; and red, blood-shot eyes.

 

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