Marijuana Addiction

A comprehensive guide to marijuana addiction

Need help with marijuana addiction for yourself or a loved one?

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Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Marijuana Addiction

What causes marijuana addiction?

Addictive drugs such as marijuana directly activate the brain’s reward pathway, a system involved in behavior reinforcement and memory production

Activation of the reward system can be so intense that normal activities, like eating and sleeping, may be forgotten and/or neglected. Drugs of abuse characteristically enhance dopamine signaling in an area of the reward pathway called the nucleus accumbens (NA.) The NA is sometimes called the “pleasure center” of the brain. It releases dopamine when the brain senses a rewarding stimulus, such as marijuana, and this rush of chemicals reinforces the behavior that caused the sensation, for example smoking. Thus, the cycle of pleasure seeking begins and an addiction is cultivated.

Brain scan

What does marijuana do to the body?

Different drugs affect dopamine by different mechanisms of action. The primary active ingredient in marijuana, THC, works by binding to cannabinoid receptors, concentrated in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum. These areas of the brain are responsible for short-term memory, coordination, learning, and problem-solving.

What are the signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse and addiction?

Effects vary from person to person and can sometimes lead to bizarre, unpredictable, and even violent behavior. The following effects may occur immediately and last anywhere between a few minutes and an hour:

Physical signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse

  • Impaired body movement
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritated lungs/breathing problems from smoking
  • Altered senses (ex. quieter sounds, brighter colors)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hindered brain development (altered connections between parts of the brain involved in thinking, learning, and memory functions)

Behavioral signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse

  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty with cognitive tasks (ex. thinking, problem-solving)
  • Mood changes
  • Altered sense of time
  • Loss of IQ points (if use starts during the teenage years)
  • Temporary hallucinations (in long-term users)
  • Temporary paranoia (in long-term users)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

What are the effects of marijuana abuse and addiction?

Potential long-term effects of marijuana use may include

  • Schizophrenia flare-up
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Respiratory issues

Can anyone become addicted to marijuana?

Potentially, yes, based on factors including (but not limited to) the amount taken, the length of time dedicated to using, and the potency of the substance. People are sometimes skeptical about marijuana’s addictive nature because many people use it without experiencing stereotypical addiction symptoms, such as cravings and withdrawal. It is absolutely possible to become addicted, though, and we treat patients for marijuana addiction at Two Dreams on a regular basis.


Addiction is not caused by a single factor, but rather a multitude of factors. It is considered to be hereditary, in the sense that people who have a first-degree relative with an addiction are more likely to develop an addiction than those who don’t. However, many addicts have no family history of addiction, so the role of genetics alone is inconclusive. Environmental factors play a significant role, and those exposed to family and friends using marijuana on a regular basis are more likely to try it than those individuals who would have to go out of their way to gain access to it. Peer pressure, low socioeconomic status, and lack of parental guidance are also contributing factors to marijuana addiction.

Marijuana Withdrawal

What are the causes of marijuana withdrawal?

Withdrawal refers to both the physical and emotional consequences of either suddenly ceasing to take or drastically reducing intake of the drug after dependence on the substance is established. The brain and body become accustomed to functioning under certain conditions with marijuana, so forcing them to quickly adapt to new ones can cause a wide array of issues.

Withdrawal headaches

Signs of marijuana withdrawal

Physical and mental signs of marijuana withdrawal

  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Digestive issues, cramps
  • Depression
  • Depersonalization
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Altered sex drive (increase or decrease)

What happens during marijuana withdrawal?

The effects of marijuana withdrawal vary from person to person. Marijuana and metabolites typically remain in the system for between 4-21 days, after which time withdrawal symptoms are more common. Typically withdrawal symptoms will entirely disappear after 90 days.

How does Two Dreams handle marijuana detox?

We do not personally offer detoxification services, however our professional staff is more than happy to refer patients to nearby clinics for detox before admission into our program.

Marijuana Overdose

Marijuana Overdose: The Risks and Effects

Ingesting a large amount or highly potent dose of THC, the most active cannabinoid in marijuana, can lead to serious consequences. This guide is for information purposes only and should not be used in case of an emergency.

If you suspect you or someone else has overdosed, call your local emergency hotline (ex. 911) or a poison control center (1-800-222-1222) immediately.

Signs of marijuana overdose

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart attack
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Irritated respiratory system
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization
  • Dilated pupils
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Panic attacks
  • Shallow, labored breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

What to do if someone is overdosing on marijuana

If you suspect you or someone else has overdosed, call your local emergency hotline (ex. 911) or a poison control center (1-800-222-1222) immediately, as overdose can lead to widespread organ injury and/or death if not handled quickly. It is helpful to know the strength of the ingested drug, as well as the time it was taken, the amount taken, and whether or not it was prescribed. The operator will also likely ask for the person’s age, weight, and current condition.

Marijuana Addiction: What To Do Next

What are my next steps?

Please call us here at Two Dreams if you find yourself struggling with marijuana use; our lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Two Dreams offers a safe, judgment-free place to start the healing process. There are many different ways to start managing addiction, and we understand that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. We provide inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient services based on the unique needs of each individual and the level of care needed. Our trained counselors, under the supervision of a physician, are happy to talk through these options with you and help decide which placement will best fit your needs.

We ensure that the transitions into and out of treatment are as stress-free as possible by guiding you through each process step-by-step. Additionally, we provide step-down transition programs to help you shift out of the treatment center setting.

Our expert staff has been helping people with addiction for decades, so you can be sure that you and your loved ones will be in good hands. Dr. Andrea Barthwell, founder and CEO of Two Dreams, is widely regarded as one of the “Best Doctors in America” in the field of addiction medicine. She served as president of the American Addiction Society of Medicine (ASAM), as well as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction in the White House under President George W. Bush. Her renowned status and experience in the field have allowed her to shape Two Dreams into the outstanding recovery center that it is today—one that is able to provide state-of-the-art care and services to those in need.

We are here to help you in any way that we can; we are on your side.

Education Resources/Sources Cited

How We Treat Marijuana Addiction at Two Dreams

What makes our marijuana addiction treatment plans effective?

Our unique 3-7-3 model allows for each patient to explore their own recovery while simultaneously healing alongside their peers.

Our Unique Treatment Model

Three Phases

The first “3” refers to our three phases of treatment: coming in, looking in, and looking out. In brief, the Coming In phase is about making the decision to come into the treatment center and learning to trust and tell your story. The Looking In phase is devoted to introspection, acknowledging the addiction, committing to recovery, and reducing or eliminating inducements to use. The Looking Out phase revolves around planning for life outside the treatment center, in terms of managing cravings, relationships, living arrangements, etc.

Seven Dimensions

The “7” refers to the seven dimensions of treatment we feel comprise a holistic treatment experience. In focusing on these aspects of life, we believe we can help our patients to become fully well rounded, self-sufficient individuals.

  1. Abstinence
  2. Peer Support
  3. Professional Guidance
  4. Medication Review
  5. Nutrition
  6. Exercise
  7. Ritual (12-Step Component)

Three Outcomes

The last “3” refers to the three outcomes we aspire to achieve in treatment: mental peace, physical well-being, and personal productivity. In achieving mental peace, patients can cast off the negative emotions fostered by addiction and replace them with feelings of self-worth, positivity, and hope for the future. In achieving physical well-being, patients embrace the mind-body connection and live the healthy lifestyle necessary for fostering a healthy mindset. In achieving personal productivity, patients play to their strengths and contribute to society in their own way while continuing their recovery journey.

Learn more about our unique program, or watch a short introduction video from our founder, Dr. Andrea Barthwell.

What will you experience during treatment for marijuana addiction at Two Dreams?

Our unique program combines the 12-step modality with behavioral therapies, motivational enhancement therapy, psychiatric care, and other psychosocial methods. We fully embrace the 12-steps as an important part of recovery support, but also realize that it can be most beneficial when used in conjunction with other modalities.

The treatment experience at Two Dreams also involves daily process group therapy sessions, individual counseling sessions, physical activities, nutritional guidance, journaling and mindfulness exercises, recreational experiences, and more. We believe that addiction is best addressed holistically and we take pride in our ability to instill in you the tools needed to achieve mental peace, physical wellbeing, and personal productivity.

Morning sun salutation

Daily Ritual at Two Dreams

Ritual is a key component of beating addiction; by ritualizing your daily schedule, you can largely remove the irrational, emotional risk-taking behaviors that oftentimes lead to relapse. We help patients to develop their own rituals by turning them on to some of our own evidence-based habits for success. For example, every morning patients wake up and take a walk on the beach, bathing their eyes in sunlight to encourage the switch from GABA to glutamate, AKA sleep to wake. They then enjoy a 4 oz. fruit and vegetable smoothie after that to start their metabolism and further encourage wakefulness.

The Two Dreams Advantage

We have a maximum of 10 patients at any given time, so we are able to continually update and evaluate each patient’s progress in an effort to maximize their outcomes. We aim for overall wellness, as opposed to just detoxification and abstinence, so when patients leave our beautiful beachside location they are ready to take on the challenges of everyday life.

Call us at (708) 613-4750

or message us below and one of our caring counselors will reach out to you.

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