Marijuana is composed of the dried leaves and flowers of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. These contain THC, the chemical that causes the psychoactive response to the drug, and over 100 additional related compounds known as cannabinoids.
Marijuana is generally referred to as weed, herb, bud, grass, and pot, and it's the most widely used drug in the world. While it's widely believed that this drug isn't addictive, around nine percent of people who abuse it on a daily basis become physically dependent on it. Marijuana dependence isn't as dangerous and intense as addiction associated with other drugs of abuse, but it can dramatically affect mental health and brain function, particularly in young people whose brains aren't yet fully developed.
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Marijuana dependence is a serious problem in the United States. Some of the signs and symptoms of marijuana dependence include:
Because cannabis doesn't have the same intense effects as stronger drugs like heroin and cocaine, many people believe it's not addictive. Even those who are addicted to it may be in denial, since the withdrawal symptoms are very mild compared to other drugs. Additionally, many people who use it on a daily basis are still able to function fairly normally. They're able to maintain employment and healthy relationships, and they continue meeting responsibilities at home and in the community.
Another common reason why many don't believe marijuana is addictive and that it's safe to use on a regular basis is that it is completely natural. It's also becoming increasingly legalized or decriminalized across the country, leading many people to believe that it is safe.
However, this doesn't mean it is safe or non-addictive. Marijuana addiction is very real, and getting help for dependence is essential for those who are unable to quit using it on their own.
Although withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana are very mild compared to other, more intense street drugs, those with a physical dependence on marijuana commonly experience these withdrawal symptoms when the drug use is discontinued:
Withdrawal symptoms typically peak around one week and last about two weeks after discontinuing use.
Treating a dependence on marijuana through a drug rehab program begins with medical detox, during which marijuana is withheld from the body in order to allow brain function to return to normal. Medications are administered as needed to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Once the physical addiction is broken through medical detoxification, various traditional and alternative treatment therapies are used to address the psychological aspects of the addiction, which are far more complex than the physical dependence. Treatment includes various psychotherapies to help the patient become self-aware of their own attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors associated with the drug use and replace those that are harmful with those that are productive and healthy.
The last phase of treatment is the addiction aftercare plan, which is a collection of programs and interventions designed to help patients maintain a drug-free life after treatment. The typical aftercare plan includes continued therapy, participation in self-help recovery groups, and meetings with a case worker to review the aftercare plan and make adjustments based on emerging and changing needs.