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Marijuana Dependence: Symptoms and Treatment


Like many such substances, marijuana can be an incredibly helpful substance in the right amount, and under the right medical supervision. The FDA has approved a few cannabis-derived products for treating very specific diseases and disorders, and medical-grade marijuana is now legal to some degree in many U.S. states. Marijuana has also, of course, been commonly used for recreational purposes for decades.

However, as with any drug—prescription or otherwise—quality and quantity both play vital roles in the experience and side effects of using marijuana. Legally purchasing medical-grade or properly certified marijuana is far safer than purchasing it illegally or from casual suppliers whose supplies are not subject to safety inspections and may be laced with other, more dangerous substances. And, of course, too much of anything—but especially of a psychoactive drug—can have severe negative consequences.

So how do you recognize the difference between marijuana use and abuse? How do you know if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of marijuana dependence and may require addiction treatment? Is marijuana even addictive?

Symptoms of Marijuana Dependence

While it’s true that marijuana is not a particularly addictive drug in the chemical sense—at least when compared to other psychoactive substances—it is possible to become psychologically, and even somewhat physically, dependent on it. That is, you may crave it, and you may find it hard to decrease or cease your intake.

Marijuana abuse occurs when you, or your loved one, begin to use it more frequently or in a higher dosage than prescribed—or when you continue to up your dosage to achieve a greater “high.” Likewise, marijuana dependence occurs when you begin to rely on its effects to cope with the difficulties of your everyday life—to the detriment of your health or wellbeing.

Marijuana dependence symptoms include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Excessive eating or binge-eating
  • Academic difficulties
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at home or at work
  • Social withdrawal
  • Prioritizing time spent with others who use marijuana or other drugs over time spent with other friends or family members
  • Lying about use or about the extent of use
  • Researching different types of marijuana and ways to get high
  • Putting oneself or others at risk in order to illegally obtain marijuana

In addition to these widely known red flags, one other, often-overlooked symptom of marijuana dependence is hidden deep in the follicles of your hair.

Hair Follicle Drug Testing

By smoking marijuana, even for a short amount of time, you are facilitating the release of the drug and its active compounds into your system. The compounds—or cannabinoids—travel through the bloodstream and bind themselves to cells’ cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids are metabolites of psychoactive Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that positive drug tests recognize, and as they make their way through the bloodstream, some of them enter the vessels that feed the scalp’s cells. When TCH enters the hair follicles, it remains there as hair sprouts from the root and is carried past the scalp, and can then be recognizable by a hair follicle drug test.

Hair testing is well established in the drug-testing world and remains one of the most commonly used tests by employers, schools, and courts. While trace amounts of drugs are quickly excreted (usually within 72 hours) through urine and other bodily fluids, hair follicle testing offers a much wider detection window of up to three months. Moreover, shampoos, conditioners, and other styling products have no effect on test results. This ensures that one cannot evade detection by simply abstaining from drug use for a few days prior to testing. Some hair tests can even detect how heavily marijuana has been smoked within the testing period.

If you or your loved one cannot bring yourself to quit using marijuana long enough to pass a hair follicle drug test—particularly if one is required for a job you really want or need, for example—this is a strong sign that you have become dependent on the drug.

When is Addiction Treatment for Marijuana Abuse Necessary?

Marijuana is somewhat like alcohol in the sense that, while it may be socially acceptable (at least in certain settings), this does not mean that you cannot abuse or become dependent on it. One person may use it strictly medicinally, while another may find themselves unable to get through a day without smoking at least once, if not more often. In the former case, no action may be needed. But in the latter case, comprehensive addiction treatment may be beneficial, even necessary.

Addiction specialists can help you monitor and effectively manage your marijuana use, or even quit entirely, using both physical and psychological therapies. Perhaps even more importantly, a comprehensive therapy program will help you learn and master the skills and coping methods necessary to manage or refrain from use effectively as you move forward with your life.

In other words, you won’t just be overcoming your current marijuana dependence symptoms, you’ll be taking proactive action to prevent becoming dependent again in the future. You won’t need to rely on marijuana or other drugs to cope—you’ll be able to rely on yourself, and your support network, to get you through the bad days and enjoy the good ones.

If you recognize these symptoms of marijuana dependence in yourself or a loved one, reach out to us here at New Choices Treatment Centers, or call us at (726) 888-7003. Our addiction specialists can help you build a path to recovery that’s just right—both for you and your family.