How is marijuana abused?

Marijuana abuse occurs when you use marijuana for non-medical reasons. More on the definition of drug abuse as related to weed.

minute read

Marijuana is the most commonly abused psychoactive drug in the United States. As a dry, shredded mix of the flowers, stems, and leaves of the hemp plant cannabis sativa, marijuana is usually smoked. However, smoked marijuana can cause respiratory problems or immune system deficiencies.

So, what does it mean to abuse marijuana?  What kinds of side effects does it cause and how can you identify abuse? And what does it take to help a marijuana addict get treatment?We answer these questions here, and invite your comments or questions about marijuana use and abuse at the end.

Can marijuana be abused?

Yes, marijuana can be abused.

While many people use marijuana for legitimate legal reasons, recreational use of marijuana has significantly increased in recent years. And while the number of people who use marijuana at any one time does not seem to have increased in the past decade, the number of people who have a marijuana-related disorder has increased significantly. So what is the definition of drug abuse as related to weed?

How marijuana is abused

Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is a patterned use of a drug -in this case marijuana- which leads to harm to users or others. And while the term “drug abuse” has a huge range of definitions, using marijuana for non-therapeutic or non-medical effect is considered abuse.

During marijuana abuse, users consume weed in amounts or via methods which are harmful to themselves. In this case, marijuana is consumed via smoking or oral ingestion through foods. Smoking it can cause some of the same coughing and breathing problems as smoking cigarettes. Marijuana is abused when:

  1. smoked, causing side effects similar to smoking
  2. taken for non-medical use and euphoric effect
  3. taken in amounts that are harmful

Marijuana abuse side effects

Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, an individual’s heart rate speeds up, the bronchial passages relax and become enlarged, and blood vessels in the eyes expand, making the eyes look red. The heart rate-normally 70 to 80 beats per minute-may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute, or may even double in some cases.

The intoxicating effects of marijuana include relaxation, sleepiness, and mild euphoria (getting high). Smoking marijuana leads to fast and predictable signs and symptoms. Eating marijuana can cause slower, and sometimes less predictable effects. Marijuana can also cause undesirable side effects, which increase with higher doses. These side effects include:

  • addiction
  • decreased short-term memory
  • dry mouth
  • impaired judgment
  • impaired perception and motor skills
  • increased risk of mental illness

More serious side effects include panic, paranoia, or acute psychosis, which may be more common with new users or in those who already have a psychiatric disease. Taking other drugs with marijuana can amplify this effect. Additionally, after regular use physical signs of marijuana addiction can indicate the need for treatment.

Signs of marijuana abuse

Some noticeable signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse include:

  • craving for sweets or food
  • distorted sense of time passage and a tendency to overestimate time intervals
  • forgetfulness in conversation
  • increased appetite
  • inflammation in the whites of the eyes
  • lack of concentration and coordination
  • odor similar to burnt rope on clothing or breath
  • rapid, loud talking and bursts of laughter in early stages of intoxication
  • sleepy or stuporous in the later stages
  • use or possession of paraphernalia including roach clips, packs of rolling papers, pipes or bongs

Questions about marijuana abuse

Do you still have questions about marijuana abuse? Do you suspect that a loved one is abusing MJ? Please leave us your questions in the comments section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly. Please note that we will not engage in debates with marijuana advocates, nor post pro-weed comments here.

Reference Sources: NIDA: Drug Facts: Marijuana
MedlinePlus: Marijuana intoxication
NIH: How does marijuana use affect your brain and body?
Wiki: Substance abuse
Medline Plus: Marijuana
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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