How Marijuana Affects The Body
The active substance that gives marijuana its “drug” properties is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. When THC enters the bloodstream, it primarily affects neurotransmitters in the brain. These are the parts of the brain that regulate your senses and functions. THC over-activates these transmitters, causing the “high” sensation users may feel. Symptoms of this high can include:
- Heightened sensory perception
- Impaired motor skills
- Altered sense of time
- Mood swings
- Difficulty with complex tasks
- Hallucination (in extreme cases)
Marijuana can degrade physical and mental functions over a long period of use. As with tobacco, consistent marijuana smoking over a long time can cause lung problems. Some patients have shown increased risk for heart attack. Older patients and people with pre-existing conditions can be especially at risk. Research is ongoing into the long term effects on children of pregnant women who use during pregnancy.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Marijuana is not seen as addictive by large parts of the public. In fact, many people may be attracted to marijuana use believing that it is not habit-forming. Sadly, this is not always the case. It is true that marijuana is generally not as addictive as some other drugs like opioids or meth. However, THC can begin to “hijack” the brain over a period of sustained use. As the patient uses more regularly, the brain comes to depend on the drug to feel normal. If the drug is not detected, the brain may send out distress signals for more. These signals are called withdrawal. Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can include:
Patients who experience withdrawal symptoms are usually diagnosed with Marijuana Use Disorder (MUD). Studies suggest that 10-30% of marijuana users may develop MUD. In the last several years, the levels of THC in marijuana has generally increased. This means that more users may develop MUD as marijuana becomes more easily obtained.
How Is MUD Treated?
Like other substance addictions, MUD is best treated by a period of detoxification followed by therapy. Detoxification, or detox, is different for marijuana than many other substances. Currently, there are no FDA approved medications specifically designed to treat marijuana withdrawal symptoms. However, many detox centers do offer treatment programs for MUD. Since MUD detox is generally not life threatening, an outpatient detox may be offered. This allows the patient to purge the system of THC from the comfort of home or a sober living facility. Our team can help you decide what options are best for your situation.
The first step to any treatment program is intake and medical examination. Your care team will typically perform a full medical evaluation, which may include blood work. Be sure to tell your provider about any medications you are taking, as well as any preexisting conditions. Your provider may also ask about your current living situation.
The marijuana detox process itself can be a bit unpleasant, as your body is working through withdrawal symptoms. However, your care team will have options to keep you as comfortable as possible. Some symptoms may be treated by mild prescriptions or over the counter medications. If you are detoxing at home, be sure to only take medication that has been approved by your care team. Commercial “detox kits” are available, but should only be used if recommended by your provider. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and eat balanced, nutritious meals. Your care team may recommend vitamins or specific food/liquids to ease symptoms. Initial detox usually lasts no more than one week.
Once you have finished detox, you will most likely enter an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOT). During the day, you will be in individual and group therapy. Working with a therapist can help you identify root issues behind use, and develop coping strategies. Many programs offer trauma informed therapy to help patients recover from traumatic life events. Family therapy helps your family or loved ones heal from the relational wounds that addiction can cause. These sessions teach appropriate boundaries, conflict resolution, and how to set up support structures. At night, you will most likely stay at a sober living facility, especially during the first stages of treatment.
Do I Really Need Treatment?
If you are currently using marijuana and want to stop, congratulations! The first step to successful recovery is deciding to pursue it. Unlike some substances, marijuana withdrawal is usually not dangerous or life threatening. However, many patients find that treatment offers a better long term path to success. Addiction is often about more than just the physical symptoms. There may be emotional or psychological reasons you feel the need to use.That is where our team comes in. Addiction is a complex medical issue, not a moral failure. You are not at fault, and you deserve the best care to help you experience the best life has to offer.
Reach out to our team today to start your journey to recovery. You can contact us online or by phone at (770) 308-8249. We accept most insurance plans, and offer flexible payment options.