Marijuana addiction, also known as cannabis use disorder, has nothing to do with how one feels about its’ legality, relative harm in relation to other drugs or purported medical benefits. Cannabis use disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) along with every other substance abuse disorder.
The bottom line is this: Any drug that can alter one’s perception can cause chemical changes in the brain that lead to dependency. This is true for nicotine, for alcohol and for marijuana. Unfortunately, marijuana’s availability, in addition to its growing mainstream presence, can obscure this fact.
Most people who use marijuana smoke the dried leaves of the plant Cannabis sativa. Marijuana can be ingested in the form of edibles such as brownies or candy, drunk when it is brewed as tea, vaporized or smoked. In recent years, an extract of the active ingredient in cannabis – delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – can be smoked or ingested through a process called dabbing.
The legalization of marijuana in recent years has led to increased cannabis availability, reductions in harm and higher levels of potency in edible, drinkable and smokable products that are now easily accessible. The popularity of these high potency products may expose people to greater risks that might not have been true years ago.
Smoking marijuana will allow the quick absorption of THC into the bloodstream, while ingesting it can take much longer – up to an hour or two to start to take effect, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Higher potency marijuana products can also lead to greater impairment. Marijuana abuse can lead to short-term physical and psychological effects, according to WebMD, including:
- Mood changes
- Changes in time perception
- Increased heart rate
- Decreased blood pressure
- Changes in blood sugar
- Dilated pupils and red eyes
- Slow reaction times
- Breathing shallowly
- Dry mouth