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Signs of Marijuana Abuse

The signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction often appear within a few weeks or months of regular marijuana use.

Struggling with Marijuana Addiction? Get Help Now

Though each person’s experience will be different, in general, the signs of a marijuana addiction can be divided into psychological, physical, and behavioral or social categories. 

When use of marijuana increases and negative consequences begin to pile up, it is a sign that a marijuana use disorder is present. If the person is unable to stop using marijuana on their own despite these consequences, addiction treatment is recommended.

Psychological Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

Some of the psychological signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction include the following:[1-3]

  • Cravings and urges to use marijuana
  • Preoccupation with marijuana that makes it difficult to focus on other interests or activities that cannot be combined with marijuana use
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues exacerbated by marijuana use
  • Difficulty with memory, attention, and learning
  • Lack of motivation and reduced productivity

Physical Signs of Marijuana Addiction

There are both immediate and long-term effects of marijuana use on the body, such as these:[1,4-7]

  • Chronic bloodshot eyes and dry mouth
  • Rapid heart rate and blood pressure
  • Impaired coordination and balance
  • Respiratory issues, such as coughing, wheezing, and bronchitis (when smoking marijuana)
  • Increased appetite, known as the munchies
  • Reduced fertility and sexual dysfunction, especially in long-term or heavy-dose users
  • Impaired immune system function
  • Increased tolerance, requiring larger amounts of marijuana to achieve the desired effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit or cut down on marijuana use, such as irritability, restlessness, insomnia, decreased appetite, and mood swings

Behavioral & Social Signs of Marijuana Addiction

With continued marijuana use that progresses to abuse and addiction, behavioral and social changes become evident. These are some of the things to look for:[1,8]

  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home due to marijuana use
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from marijuana use
  • Attempts to cut back on marijuana use without success
  • Risky behavior after using marijuana, such as driving under the influence
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Relationship issues
  • Legal problems related to marijuana use 

How Do I Know if My Loved One Is Living With a Marijuana Addiction?

When there are changes in a loved one’s behavior, it’s important to recognize that seeing some or even many of these signs may not necessarily indicate marijuana addiction. People can exhibit changes in behavior for various reasons, and it’s a good idea to take a step back and consider all the possibilities before making assumptions. 

Every person is unique and the changes you see may vary, but in general, you can look for choices, changes, or behaviors that are out of the ordinary or problematic for your loved one specifically. Take notice if you see these signs:[1,9]

Shifts in Mood or Demeanor

Your loved one may display noticeable mood swings, irritability, agitation, or seem unusually withdrawn or anxious. However, these changes may also arise from other factors, such as stress, relationship issues, or mental health concerns, and be worsened by marijuana use.

Neglecting Responsibilities

If your loved one starts neglecting their usual obligations, such as work, school, or personal commitments, it could be a cause for concern. 

Changes in Social Circles

If your loved one suddenly changes their social circle, appears more distant from their usual group of friends and family, and develops a new set of friends who are all heavily focused on marijuana use, it can indicate a marijuana use disorder.

Decreased Motivation & Productivity

Burnout, mental health issues, or life transitions can all impact the ability to show up in life, but if they coincide with heavy marijuana use, it can be a sign of addiction. 

Changes in Appearance

Noticeable changes in physical appearance, weight, or hygiene that co-occur with increasing use of marijuana could be a sign that marijuana addiction is present.

Unexplained Financial Difficulties

A sudden financial strain without clear explanation could raise a red flag. Marijuana is expensive and can drain funds. Use of the drug can also make it harder to show up for work, which may result in loss of employment and difficulty finding a new job.

Health Impacts of Marijuana Addiction

Any amount of marijuana use can have a negative impact on short-term health, but heavy use or addictive use of marijuana can lead to serious and lasting health problems that can significantly impact quality of life. 

Short-Term Health Effects of Marijuana Use

When you use marijuana, you can expect these effects:[1,10-12]

  1. Cognitive Impairment: Marijuana use can impair cognitive function and negatively impact memory, attention, and learning abilities. This can make it harder to take care of your health or keep up with work, which provides the means to connect with proper healthcare. 
  2. Respiratory Effects: Smoking marijuana can lead to respiratory issues like coughing, wheezing, and bronchitis, which can be acute or chronic. 
  3. Increased Heart Rate: Marijuana use can temporarily elevate heart rate, potentially posing risks for people with underlying cardiovascular conditions or those who have a genetic predisposition for heart problems.
  4. Impaired Coordination: Marijuana can affect coordination, balance, and reaction time, increasing the chances of accidents or injuries, particularly when operating machinery or driving.

Long-Term Health Effects of Marijuana Use & Abuse

With marijuana addiction, the long-term effects of continued use add up. They may include the following:[1,13-15]

  1. Severe Respiratory Damage: Prolonged smoking of marijuana can raise the risk of chronic bronchitis, respiratory infections, and cancers of the mouth, throat, and lungs.
  2. Mental Health Issues: Marijuana addiction has been associated with an increased likelihood of developing or worsening mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia, especially in individuals with preexisting vulnerabilities.
  3. Impaired Brain Development: Regular marijuana use during adolescence can interfere with normal brain development, potentially leading to long-term cognitive deficits and impacting memory, attention, and cognitive abilities.
Updated May 6, 2024
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  2. Addiction | Health effects | marijuana | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 9, 2021. Accessed December 24, 2023.
  3. Pacheco-Colón I, Limia JM, Gonzalez R. Nonacute effects of cannabis use on motivation and reward sensitivity in humans: A systematic review. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 2018;32(5):497-507.
  4. Archie SR, Cucullo L. Harmful effects of smoking cannabis: A cerebrovascular and neurological perspective. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2019;10(1481).
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  7. Ryan KS, Bash JC, Hanna CB, Hedges JC, Lo JO. Effects of marijuana on reproductive health. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity. 2021;Publish Ahead of Print.  
  8. Wright NE, Scerpella D, Lisdahl KM. Marijuana use is associated with behavioral approach and depressive symptoms in adolescents and emerging adults. Hashimoto K, ed. PLOS ONE. 2016;11(11):e0166005.
  9. Know the risks of marijuana. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published February 27, 2023. Accessed December 24, 2023.
  10. Crean RD, Crane NA, Mason BJ. An evidence-based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive cognitive functions. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2011;5(1):1-8.
  11. Vásconez E, Delgado-Moreira K, Belén López-Molina, Izquierdo-Condoy JS, Gámez-Rivera E, OrtizPrado E. Effects of smoking marijuana on the respiratory system: A systematic review. Substance Abuse. 2023;44(3):249-260.
  12. Ribeiro LI, Ind PW. Effect of cannabis smoking on lung function and respiratory symptoms: A structured literature review. Primary Care Respiratory Medicine. 2016;26(1).
  13. Ghasemiesfe M, Barrow B, Leonard S, Keyhani S, Korenstein D. Association between marijuana use and risk of cancer. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(11):e1916318.
  14. Hjorthøj C, Compton W, Starzer M, et al. Association between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia stronger in young males than in females. Psychological Medicine. Published May 4, 2023:1-7.
  15. Lowe DJE, Sasiadek JD, Coles AS, George TP. Cannabis and mental illness: a review. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. 2018;269(1):107-120.
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