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Cannabis or marijuana is comprised of the leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant known as Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. The substance in the plant that causes the “high” sought by users is the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The amount of THC in a plant will largely determine the intensity of the effects.

Marijuana is the illicit drug used most frequently in the U.S. today. As many as 11 million adults between 18 and 25 years of age used the drug in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Use of the drug has also been on the rise in recent years, with an increase from 6.2 percent to 8.3 percent of people age 12 and over that were using the drug between 2002 and 2015. As many as 12 percent of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 reported using the drug within the past month, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 2015 annual report.


Marijuana is not a new drug – in fact, it has been grown for more than 2,000 years and used for its hallucinogenic effects. However, the substance has evolved, as growers have discovered ways to increase the amount of THC in the plant. For example, in 1980, the drug contained about one percent THC. By 1997, that amount was approaching 5.1 percent. Higher concentrations have made the substance significantly more potent, more dangerous and more addictive. In addition, distributors and users are finding ways to extract the THC from the plant into a sticky resin known as hash oil, which is even more powerful and has resulted in more emergency room visits due to its use in recent years.

Short-Term Effects

In the short term, marijuana produces hallucinogenic effects including an altered state of time and senses. Other effects might include:

  • Reduced coordination
  • Impaired mental function, including thinking and memory
  • Increased heart rate with heightens the danger of heart attack
  • Lower reaction time and impaired judgment
  • Sexual problems among male users
  • Changes in mood
  • Hallucinations, delusions and psychosis

Long-Term Damage

When marijuana is regularly used over an extended period, the effects can be more profound and longer-lasting. Some of the damage caused by long-term marijuana use might include:

  • Declining performance at work or school
  • Impaired logical thinking and learning ability
  • Lower IQ, particularly if use is started at a younger age
  • Breathing problems or lung infections if the substance is smoked
  • Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, a condition characterized by severe nausea and vomiting after use

Some damage may be reversed if the person stops using the substance. However, studies are indicating that side effects like a lower IQ may be permanent even if the drug is stopped.

Signs of Addiction

Despite what is frequently said in the media and by proponents of marijuana legalization, this substance is addictive and more so for younger users. Telltale signs of addiction might include the following:

  • Using more of the drug to obtain the same effects, known as tolerance
  • Using higher amounts than intended
  • Inability to cut down on marijuana use even when the desire is there
  • Spending more time getting, using and recovering from marijuana
  • Withdrawal from people and activities to spend more time using the drug
  • Dependence on marijuana to relax, unwind or escape from daily life
  • A decline in daily tasks and responsibilities

Seeking Treatment

Marijuana addiction can be dangerous and difficult to overcome without professional treatment. Professionals that are struggling with marijuana dependency often find the substance abuse is a significant detriment to their personal lives and their careers but may be hesitant to seek help due to the ramifications of going public with the addiction. The Center for Professional Recovery customizes treatment to the needs of professionals and understands the anxiety that often accompanies that first phone call to a treatment center. Our experienced team will work with you to help you achieve successful, long-term recovery and resume your career in many cases. Contact us today at 866.298.0056.

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