Marijuana Abuse Causes and Effects

Sunrise Recovery Ranch provides marijuana abuse treatment rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life, without addiction.

Understanding Marijuana

Learn about marijuana and substance abuse

Marijuana, commonly known as pot or weed, is a drug made from the dried cannabis plant. Its active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol or THC, is a psychoactive substance that can induce altered sensory and perceptual experiences, feelings of relaxation and euphoria, excessive laughter, memory and motor impairment, and occasionally anxiety, depression, or social withdrawal. Because of the pleasurable feelings marijuana use can provide, people may have trouble stopping once they have started using the drug.

There are a number of methods for ingesting marijuana. It is typically smoked or the vapors are inhaled using vaporizers, yet it can also be cooked into foods and eaten or brewed into a tea. Another increasingly popular method of consumption is by smoking or eating resins extracted from the marijuana plant, though these resins can have dangerously high concentrations of THC. Although recreational marijuana use has been legalized in a number of states, marijuana continues to be a dangerous drug with the potential to cause long-term harm to those who use it, possibly including permanent cognitive impairment, respiratory damage, and exacerbation of existing mental health problems, not to mention social and occupational difficulties.

Thankfully, marijuana abuse does not have to control a person’s life. With the help of comprehensive care provided by a caring and expert treatment team, it is possible to break free from the grip of marijuana abuse and live a life free from the influence of this insidious drug.


Marijuana abuse statistics

According to data from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, cannabinoids, or the drug family to which marijuana belongs, are the most widely used illicit drugs in the United States. In a given year, approximately 1.5 percent of adults use these drugs. People aged 18 to 29 are the most likely to use this substance, and men are nearly three times more likely than women to use it.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for marijuana abuse

While it can be difficult to determine exactly what causes a person to abuse marijuana, researchers have uncovered a number of genetic, environmental, and temperamental influences that may increase a person’s risk for abusing the drug, such as:

Genetic: Like many mental health concerns, the risk of cannabis use tends to run in families, and research suggests that genes strongly influence someone’s risk for developing cannabis use disorder. Generally speaking, a person whose parents use marijuana is more likely to use marijuana him or herself.

Environmental: In addition to genetics, a person’s environment can also influence his or her risk for developing cannabis use disorder. Examples of environmental factors that may contribute to use can include previous academic difficulties, use of tobacco, low socioeconomic status, unstable family environment, family history of substance use, history of abuse, and ready availability of marijuana.

Risk Factors:

  • History of antisocial personality disorder, childhood conduct disorder, or disruptive behaviors
  • Disinhibited personality
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Being a victim of abuse
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Personal history of substance use

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse

The signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse typically vary depending on an individual’s personality and the length and extent of use. However, the following are some typical indicators that a person may be using marijuana:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using marijuana for longer periods of time or in greater amounts that a person originally intends
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce one’s marijuana use
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from use of marijuana
  • Inability to manage responsibilities at work or home
  • Continuing to use marijuana even if it is hazardous to do so
  • Knowing that marijuana abuse is causing harm but not ceasing to use it
  • Excessive laughter
  • Withdrawal from relationships
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite social or interpersonal problems
  • Avoiding important obligations or activities in favor of using marijuana

Physical symptoms:

  • Red eyes
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • An increase in appetite, often referred to as “the munchies”
  • Poor motor performance
  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tolerance, or needing to use increased amounts of marijuana to achieve a high
  • Experiencing uncomfortable side effects when ceasing use, known as withdrawal

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Having strong desires or urges to use marijuana
  • Impaired judgment
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Difficulty with complex mental processing
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling as though time is passing slowly

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Euphoric mood
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood


Effects of marijuana abuse

Should a person continue to use marijuana, he or she is at risk for experiencing a number of negative effects, which may include:

  • Relational difficulties
  • Amotivational syndrome, which can include poor work performance and a reduction in goal-directed activity
  • Job loss
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Injury due to engaging in risky activities while high
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms, such as symptoms of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Development of respiratory illness or cancer

Co-Occurring Disorders

Marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

People who use marijuana often meet criteria for other mental health disorders and symptoms, such as:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of marijuana withdrawal & overdose

A person who uses marijuana heavily and then attempts to cease using it may experience a number of negative symptoms, which may include:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Vivid or disturbing dreams
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Sweating

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
Marks of Quality Care
These accreditations are an official recognition of our dedication to providing treatment that exceeds the standards and best practices of quality care.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)