Many people consider marijuana to be a safe and insignificant drug. Its use is more widely accepted and less stigmatized than the use of other illicit substances. Unfortunately, this may also lead to people underestimating the risks associated with it. At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we recognize that marijuana poses risks to people who use it, and we want to ensure that you have accurate information.

Reduced Understanding of Addictive Properties

The downside of marijuana being more accepted within society is that people seem to forget that it is still an addictive substance that can lead to a substance use disorder. They may also not realize that marijuana is three times stronger today than it was 25 years ago and continues to get even stronger. Cannabis products like dabs, oils, and edibles may have THC content as high as 90 percent. For this reason, people are more likely than before to become addicted to cannabis, and it may be difficult for them to get the help they need to quit using it. In fact, one in ten adults who use marijuana become addicted to it, and the number is higher for people who start using prior to age 18.

Adverse Health Impact of Marijuana

Marijuana can have serious long-term consequences in various domains of health:

  • Physical:
    • Breathing issues – similar to the issues experienced by people who ingest tobacco, including coughing, lung diseases, and a higher risk for lung infections.
    • Birth defects – babies born to mothers who smoked cannabis during pregnancy are more likely to have low birth weights, issues with brain development, and behavioral issues.
    • Nausea and vomiting – regular, long-term marijuana users can develop cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which causes regular cycles of intense nausea, vomiting, and dehydration and which may require emergency medical care.
    • Increased risk of accidents and injuries 
    • Decline in athletic performance
    • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Mental: 
    • Worsening schizophrenia symptoms – for people with schizophrenia, marijuana use can make their paranoia, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking worse.
    • Poor academic and career achievement
    • Lower life satisfaction
    • More relationship issues
    • Permanent decrease in IQ
  • Medical – Many people don’t realize that smoking marijuana can create issues for them in receiving medical care:
  • Stomach contents entering the throat – if you are a recent or chronic marijuana user, your stomach may not empty as fast. This can mean that during surgery, the contents of your stomach can come back up in your throat and then be sucked into your lungs before a breathing tube can be placed.
  • Heart attack – if you are placed under anesthesia for surgery, your risk of heart attack goes up if you smoked weed within an hour of getting anesthesia.
  • Higher levels of anesthesia needed – if you use cannabis regularly, you may require more anesthesia to stay unconscious during surgery, but this can cause your blood pressure to fall dangerously low.
  • Surgery complications – You may experience more pain following surgery, which could cause you to rely more on opioid painkillers, possibly leading to an opioid use disorder.

Risks of Drug Interactions

Marijuana can interact with a wide range of other substances, including:

  • Alcohol – marijuana may increase the effects of alcohol, causing a person who has used both substances to become impaired more quickly than expected
  • Anticoagulants – marijuana may prevent these drugs from working correctly, leading to an increased risk of bleeding
  • Antiviral drugs – marijuana may render these drugs less effective
  • SSRI antidepressants – marijuana use may increase the risk of mania
  • CNS depressants – marijuana may intensity the sedation effects of sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics used to treat insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and seizures

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

The signs that someone is addicted to marijuana are similar to the signs of addiction for other drugs. These include:

  • Cravings
  • Being unable to stop using the drug when wanting to do so and using more than intended
  • Spending a lot of time and money on acquiring, using, and recovering from cannabis
  • Failing to meet school, work, or social obligations, in favor of getting high
  • Using marijuana even after experiencing physical, mental, or legal consequences for doing so
  • Needing more cannabis to get the same effect
  • Driving or engaging in other activities that become dangerous while high

At Safe Harbor Recovery Center, we offer evidence-based, personalized care for substance use disorders that also treat the underlying mental health conditions that may contribute to or result from substance use.