While marijuana has become one of the most easily recognizable drugs, its use continues to spark controversy and conversation. As this smoke appears in more and more public spaces, marijuana’s unique smell can be easily identified, even by those without previous exposure. Although its reputation seems to shift with media coverage, legal changes, social circles and medical research, the risks of using remain intact. It’s important to note these risks and continue to learn about the signs and symptoms of addiction.
It’s safe to assume that use of marijuana in this country is becoming both more acceptable and more prevalent. This is a dangerous combination in the world of addiction. As larger numbers of people begin to use the drug, and as more people feel comfortable putting their marijuana use out in the open, the risk of addiction rises.
The Scope of the ProblemAccording to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, about two in five people have used marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Some of these people may use marijuana just once, as a form of experimentation, and then never use the drug again. Other people may use the drug for a short period of time, and then choose to stop altogether. While it might be easy to praise these people for their willpower and their ability to leave marijuana behind without the use of medications or therapy, it’s important to remember one fact: Marijuana addiction occurs not because the addict is lazy, but because the addict undergoes a series of chemical changes as a result of the use. These people may have a genetic predisposition to addiction, and the chemical changes they undergo make it impossible for them to stop. They’re not weak, but they do have a medical problem that should be addressed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that about nine percent of people who use marijuana will become addicted to it. The risk goes up, however, when age goes down. People who start using marijuana at a young age (typically during their teen years) have a one in six chance of becoming addicted.
Marijuana, the Brain and AddictionThe active ingredient in marijuana, known as THC, is responsible for the vast majority of symptoms people feel when they take the drug. While the body has a wide variety of receptors dotted throughout the body that can pick up this drug, the vast majority of those receptors are located in the brain. When the user takes the drug, the THC heads directly to the brain and begins work. When marijuana reaches the brain, it attaches to those receptors and a series of chemical reactions occur. Those reactions can provide a wide variety of symptoms including:
- Red eyes
- Dry mouth
- Sense of hunger
- Increased sense of smell
Spotting Use and Getting HelpSometimes, it’s easy to spot a person who is using marijuana. The smell might be a trigger, or you might notice a proliferation of drug paraphernalia, such as water pipes, cigarette papers or lighters. These other signs could point to addiction, according to the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign:
- Replacing old friends with new friends who also use drugs
- Scent of perfume or incense in the air as the user tries to mask the smell of drugs
- Bottles of eye drops as the addict tries to reduce the red eyes caused by drug use
- Frequent calls for money, or increase in theft or crime in order to raise money for drugs
- Calls for privacy