Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

There is a common misconception that marijuana is not addictive, when in fact data suggests that about 30% of those who use marijuana show symptoms of marijuana use disorder.  A person who exhibits signs of dependence on marijuana is considered to have developed some degree of a marijuana use disorder, and in severe cases, marijuana use can cause serious problems with mood regulation, relationships, and performance at work or in school.  The determining factor in identifying addiction is the ability to easily stop an activity that is causing you harm. If you find that you are unable to quit using marijuana, despite experiencing the negative consequences of its use, you may have an addiction. There is a fine line between recreational marijuana use and marijuana abuse, and by better understanding the signs and symptoms of dependency you can determine if you may need to seek professional help for yourself or a loved one.  

Anxiety and Insomnia

Marijuana use disorder can present with many combinations of symptoms.  One common issue found in regular marijuana users is the presence of adverse mood effects during use or when they stop using.  Many people claim marijuana helps to ease their anxiety, but in some cases, marijuana may be the cause of the anxiety, to begin with.  A compound found in marijuana called CBD has many health and medicinal applications, including anti-inflammatory properties, pain relief, and anxiety management.  This compound can be isolated and taken in supplements without ingesting marijuana. THC is a compound also found in marijuana that produces a high. This compound may actually increase anxiety, as it is responsible for the paranoia some people experience while high on marijuana.  Aside from the anxiety, and in some cases panic attacks, that commonly occur with marijuana use, marijuana dependence may also mean that you begin to experience severe anxiety when you attempt to quit.  

Similar to the claims regarding anxiety, many marijuana users report that they need to use the drug to sleep.  However, research continues to suggest that marijuana is not an effective treatment for insomnia, and may actually be causing insomnia by raising anxiety levels.  Additionally, if you have developed a dependence on marijuana, attempting to quit may cause sleep disturbances and an inability to relax. Again, it seems that many of the problems marijuana users claim to be treating with cannabis are being caused by or exacerbated by the drug in the first place.  

Lack of Motivation

People experiencing marijuana use disorder may lose interest in their usual hobbies and activities, and begin to organize their lives around getting high.  Marijuana abuse can inhibit job performance, making it difficult to focus or take initiative at work. The desire to get high may take priority over healthier habits like exercise and family time.  For students, marijuana use can get in the way of academic performance and even lead to dropping out of college. Many athletes who develop marijuana use disorder begin to neglect their training or skip practice to get high instead, and their athletic performance declines as a result. 

It is common that those experiencing a decline in motivation as a result of excessive marijuana use will make excuses or attribute their shifting interests to personal choice.  Because marijuana is not commonly thought of as an addictive drug, many users have a hard time recognizing signs of dependence in themselves. They may continue to use marijuana even when all signs point to drug use as a serious problem in their personal life and at work or school.  

Cravings, Withdrawal, and Long-term Effects

One significant sign that you may have developed a marijuana dependency is the presence of strong cravings that interfere with your daily activities.  Some marijuana abusers begin smoking as soon as they wake up in the morning to prevent cravings, and when they are not able to smoke regularly, they begin to feel agitated and distracted by their urge to get high.  When a person with marijuana use disorder is unable to obtain their normal amount of marijuana or attempts to quit entirely, they may experience withdrawal symptoms like those that present themselves in any addicted person, including irritability and headaches.  

Studies have shown that long-term marijuana use can permanently affect the brain, damaging areas having to do with memory and cognitive function.  Specifically, the normal functional decline in the hippocampus associated with age-related memory loss may be hastened by exposure to the THC found in marijuana.  One study suggests that marijuana use in adolescence may even lead to a lower IQ score as an adult. In addition, studies have found that the earlier a person begins using marijuana, the more likely they are to develop a dependence later in life, which is why early intervention is important in preventing long-term harm. 


If you believe you or someone you love may have marijuana use disorder, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults struggling with addiction and their families.  Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lasting sobriety. We believe that practicing recovery doesn’t have to mean an end to educational or career goals, but instead can become a fundamental part of a successful and fulfilling life.  For more information on how we can help, call us now at  972-962-7374