The potency and long-term effects of cannabis products are still largely unknown. This lack of knowledge is landing young people in addiction treatment centers and emergency rooms across the nation. Moreover, healthcare professionals now say they are seeing more adolescents and young adults with issues such as cannabis-related psychosis and marijuana use disorder coming into their ERs.
What is causing this trend and what is being done about it? In this article, we will highlight the statistics surrounding marijuana addiction, why cannabis is landing our young people in emergency room beds, and how medical professionals are dealing with the dangerous rise in marijuana use disorders.
Marijuana Use Disorder Causes and Symptoms
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Recent data suggest that 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.”
Medically speaking, marijuana dependence occurs when the brain gets used to significant quantities of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. People who have developed an addiction to cannabis and try to quit often report withdrawal symptoms, including:
Mood swings and irritability
A decrease in appetite
Worsened symptoms of existing mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety
Marijuana Addiction and Cannabis-Related Psychosis
Why are more young people becoming addicted to marijuana? Isn’t pot considered relatively safe? According to a recent report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Once doubted as an addictive substance, treatment professionals now say they are seeing more adolescents and young adults with cannabis use disorder. Often starting in their early teens, many graduate to daily use.”
In the same article, Terri L. Randall, medical director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Substance Use Disorder Clinic, revealed that it has become more common for young patients to experience bad reactions – such as extreme anxiety and even detachment from reality – from cannabis use. “Not only are they having difficult consequences of their use, but they also are finding themselves using more and are unable to control their use. That really is at the heart of the diagnosis of addiction,” she explained.
Kevin Osterhoudt, medical director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Poison Control Center adds, “We’re certainly seeing a lot more emergency department visits due to marijuana. We’re seeing more people with paranoid delusions. We’re seeing a lot more people with signs of acute psychosis.” Thankfully, these instances of acute psychosis seem to diminish once the user stops the drug.
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Abuse
What are today’s potent strains of pot doing to young, developing brains? To answer this question, we need to review the historical increase in marijuana potency and the long-term effects it is having on today’s youth.
In the early 1990s, the average THC content in marijuana was roughly 3.8 percent. In 2014, it was 12.2 percent. Today, the average marijuana extract contains more than 50 percent THC, with some samples (oils and waxes) exceeding 80 percent (NIDA). Adolescents who use high-potency cannabis are reportedly at increased risk for developing a chronic psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, particularly if they have a genetic predisposition. A recent article in the medical journal The Lancet said that at least 12% of new cases of psychosis could be eliminated if high-potency marijuana wasn’t available.
With the increase in THC content in inhalable and edible cannabis products comes greater effects on brain chemistry and development. A long-term study led by an international research team and Duke University found that people who began regular, persistent marijuana use as teenagers that continued into adulthood showed an average decline in IQ of eight points. According to the NIDA, “Some studies suggest regular marijuana use in adolescence is associated with altered connectivity and reduced volume of specific brain regions involved in a broad range of executive functions such as memory, learning, and impulse control.”
Treatment for Marijuana Use Disorder
As more research develops, the more we see the dangers of cannabis misuse. Now that you know marijuana is addictive and how it can affect brain development, you can make informed decisions. If you or someone you love is suffering from a marijuana use disorder, get help today.
No two people are alike and no two addictions are alike, which is why The Kimberly Center places such emphasis on an individualized program. From intensive outpatient, outpatient, and long-term treatment programs to continuing care and sober living options, we offer several options to address what is at the core of your marijuana abuse and help you begin your new, healthy life in sobriety. There is no shame in asking for help because everything you could ever want is on the other side of addiction. Reach out to us today at 855-4-KCENTER (855-452-3683).