Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Marijuana addiction treatment is administered within the framework of a 12-step program to support a full and lasting recovery.

Marijuana, also commonly referred to as weed, pot, or bud, is a psychoactive substance that many individuals use for both medical and recreational purposes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Marijuana is the most commonly used drug after both tobacco and alcohol”. It’s most often the most accessible too, as it is legal in some states in the United States. In 2018, individuals ages eighteen and older reported having used marijuana in the past year.

Although marijuana is used for both medical and recreational purposes and is even legal in some states, it can and does lead to drug addiction for many users. Of those who reported using marijuana, about 30% also reported having an addiction to it. 

How Does Marijuana Work?

Marijuana contains a powerful psychoactive substance called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is released as it is smoked. Sensations of euphoria and relaxation are experienced by individuals rapidly after ingestion, which is most commonly done through smoking or eating items that have marijuana as an ingredient. 

How Cocaine Affects Your Brain, Body, and Emotions

Marijuana impacts the functioning of the brain, which is responsible for feelings of euphoria and relaxation, due to the presence of cannabinoids, which responsible for impacting some regulations of the nervous system. Cannabinoids distributed through the brain and body when marijuana is present in an individual’s system affect areas of the brain that are also responsible for regulating:

  • Pleasure
  • Memory
  • Thinking and concentration
  • Movement and coordination 
  • Sensory and time perception

Most often, like with other substances, the pleasurable side effects associated with marijuana are what leave individuals wanting to use again. It’s important to note that, even if an individual does not begin using marijuana with the intention of becoming addicted, addiction can and does occur. Some individuals are more or less susceptible to experiencing the illness of addiction based upon differences in genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological make-up. 

Short-Term Effects of Using Marijuana 

Using marijuana causes several short- and long-term side effects with continued use. Short-term side effects include, but are not limited to:

  • Feelings of relaxation and euphoria
  • Increased anxiety, fear, distrust or panic
  • Heightened sensory perception
  • Increased laughter
  • Altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and/or experiences of depersonalization 

Long-Term Effects of Using Marijuana 

Continued use of marijuana causes a variety of long-term, adverse side effects that are detrimental to one’s overall well-being. The side effects include, but are not limited to:  

  • Cognitive impairments
  • Difficulty with memory, concentration, and learning 
  • Decreased ability to regulate impulse control, leading to potentially lethal risk-taking 
  • Heart damage 
  • Potential for marijuana to act as a gateway drug, leading to using other illegal, and oftentimes more harmful, substances

What Does Marijuana Addiction Look Like?

Although marijuana isn’t inherently considered an addictive substance, it often leads to individuals becoming dependent on marijuana as their tolerance of it also increases. The experience of dependence and tolerance looks like having and needing to use marijuana in higher doses and more frequently to experience the same effects that led an individual to use marijuana in the first place. Additionally, marijuana is often considered the gateway drug, meaning it often leads to experimenting with and using other drugs that are more powerful and harmful than marijuana in years to come, all of which can lead to drug addiction. 

Marijuana addiction looks similar to other types of drug addiction, the only real difference being what an individual’s drug of choice is. You or your loved one may be struggling with addiction if you’re noticing any of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in behavior 
  • Problems at school/work 
  • Inability to complete daily activities of living 
  • Social withdrawal and/or isolation
  • Financial hardship and/or unexplained issues with money 
  • New physical and/or mental health concerns 

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Like other treatment programs, treatment for marijuana addiction begins with medical detox, where individuals are supported in drug detox under the supervision of medical professionals who have specialized training in the withdrawal phase of addiction. Medical professionals are trained in this process due to the intensity of symptoms that come along with drug detox periods, such as heightened anxiety, intense drug cravings, and nausea, in order to keep those detoxing and those around them safe. 

Seeking Addiction Help

Once drug detox is completed, individuals may continue with residential care, often at the same facility they underwent medical detox with. At Hawaii Island Recovery, Hawaii’s premiere residential substance abuse treatment center, we offer residential treatment stays for thirty to ninety or more days, depending on individuals’ need for residential care and goals for recovery and healing. Before beginning this phase of treatment, individuals meet with our treatment team to discuss what types of holistic, evidence-based, and experiential programming will be most supportive to their needs and goals as they begin their journey of sustainable recovery and sobriety. 

Next Steps

After residential treatment, most individuals continue treatment and care with outpatient support and programming to support them as they reintegrate into their life, relationships, and community without being in a residential treatment all day, every day. Having support as you create a new structure and way of being in your life where you are not under the constant care of a treatment team is important as new habits are built and self-trust is formed. Without appropriate holistic and evidence-based care, even after residential stays are completed, drug relapse is more common.

Our goal at Hawaii Island Recovery is to support individuals as they navigate healing in a way that makes sense for them through evidence-based, holistic, and experiential treatment programming in an environment that encourages healing, growth, recovery, and sobriety.

Drug addiction quickly derails one’s well-being, relationships, and everyday life. Without treatment, the short- and long-term effects of continued use can be fatal in many cases. Treatment is available and recovery is possible through finding a treatment program that supports you as you recover. At Hawaii Island Recovery, located on the Big Island, we can help you in experiencing long-term recovery, sobriety, and wellness.

Get Help Today!

If you or a loved one need help, call Hawaii Island Recovery toll-free right now.



Is it Possible to Be Addicted to Marijuana?

Marijuana addiction is rare, but it is certainly possible. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 9% of people who use marijuana will eventually abuse the substance. Stress, mental illness, and genetics can all play a factor in increasing a user’s risk of dependency or addiction.

What are the Long-term Effects of Marijuana Addiction?

Extended use of marijuana affects the user’s body and mind. Especially when use begins in adolescence, marijuana can affect brain development and IQ—even permanently. Physical effects include increased heart rate after use and breathing problems similar to those experienced by people who smoke tobacco regularly.

What are the Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal?

Not every person who uses marijuana will experience dependency or withdrawal symptoms, but those who do report a range of symptoms including:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping or restlessness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Physical discomfort

What are the Signs of Marijuana Dependency or Addiction?

If you experience withdrawal symptoms whenever you attempt to quit marijuana, you may have developed a dependency. If you continue to use marijuana despite it causing legal problems or problems in your life, career, or relationships, you may be addicted to marijuana.

How is Marijuana Addiction Treated?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to help drug users and addicts recognize and replace unhealthy beliefs or behaviors. When combined with a 12-step program for accountability, therapies such as CBT can be key to a marijuana addict’s recovery. Because mental illness increases the risk of dependency, some marijuana abusers also benefit from dual diagnoses to treat both the addiction and any underlying condition.