In Drugs & Addictions

Is Weed Addictive ? The Answer Might Surprise you

is weed addictive

Is Weed Addictive ?

Smoking weed has been around for as long as humanity has a recorded existence. However, experts have not conducted enough research to determine what type of long-term impact weed has on its users because it is illegal in most states and therefore, difficult to conduct studies. Most people who smoke weed hide the fact that they smoke it because it is illegal. More recently, however, weed became legal for adult recreational use in two states, Colorado and Washington, with twenty-one more states like Massachusetts and Maine legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses.

The Federal Government, however, still classifies weed as harmful and addictive as other schedule I substances like cocaine and heroin. Though some experts and advocates agree that recreational or medicinal use of weed may not be as harmful as the stronger narcotics and opiates, it is still dangerous for teens to use just as alcohol, drugs and tobacco is considered dangerous.

What is Weed?

Weed is known by many names like Marijuana, Cannabis and THC. The term weed consists of the flowers, stems and leaves picked from a Cannabis plant, also called buds, and predominantly are green. The buds sometimes also have hints of orange and red and look crystalized. However, many strands can take on different hues. Buds are picked, dried and shredded often resembling a mix of oregano or other greenish herbs used for cooking.

Weed has very strong pungent odors that are hard to mask and range from smelling sweet or sour to smelling like skunk. In fact, many of the more popular strands of marijuana smell like skunk. The odor soaks into clothing, skin, furniture, and other porous items. Accessories used for smoking weed, like water bongs and pipes, will also retain a strong odor.

Weed is most often smoked by either rolling the shredded buds into rolling papers called a joint or a bone and smoking it like a cigarette or packing the weed into a pipe and taking puffs off the pipe.

There are a few ways to determine if your teen is smoking weed:

  • You will most likely smell it in their hair and on their clothes. It is possible to mistake it for tobacco, if you are unsure what weed smells like. Sometimes washing clothes does not get rid of the smell.
  • Teens may start washing their clothes often to mask the smell, or shower directly after coming in from a walk or hanging out with friends, which may not be typical to their usual behavior.
  • Teens may also use scented sprays, incense or candles to mask the smell and start going for long walks or sneak out of the house to smoke.
  • You might find weed paraphernalia such as rolling papers, smoke pipes and lighters hidden in drawers or between the mattress and box spring. Your teen will go to great lengths to hide these items if they do not want you to know they are smoking weed. When confronted they might even claim the items belong to a friend.
  • Your teen’s fingertips and nails could appear orange or brown and look burnt indicating they are smoking joints.
  • Other signs can include wearing clothing or hanging posters on their walls with marijuana leaves or other weed related symbols and designs.

Below is a very helpful infographic from our friends at HealthLine on the effects of weed.

The Effects of Marijuana on the Body

Why do people smoke weed?

You might be asking, “Why do people smoke weed” if you have never smoked weed before or you have tried it and do not like it, or are completely against the use of any substances that alters your ability to function. However, your teen probably did not ask this question before trying it. There are many reasons why someone smokes weed.

Some people smoke weed for medicinal reasons like stress relief, pain relief from chronic conditions, and anxiety.

Others use it recreationally like, for example, smoking a joint after work instead of having a glass of wine or smoking with friends instead of drinking with friends.

According to the National Institute on Drug abuse, smoking weed in younger generations has continued to increase since 2007.

What does weed do to you?

The active chemical in weed known as delta-9-tertahydrocannibinol, or THC as it is commonly referred to, travels from the lungs into the bloodstream when smoked and then on to other organs including the brain. THC alters your state of mind by targeting specific receptors in the brain that affect your senses, perception, pleasure, memory, coordination, thinking and concentration abilities. This gives you the experience of being “high” and changes your mood, disrupts learning capabilities and impairs coordination, for example making your reaction time slower than normal.

There are multiple effects of weed considered good and bad by different experts and research studies.

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that memory and thinking impairment may have long lasting effects on young people who smoke weed since their brains are still developing. According to a long-term study in New Zealand of teen’s smokes from age 13 to 38, people who started smoking a lot of weed when they were teens had an average loss of IQ by 8 points. The survey indicates that quitting smoking in adulthood would not fully restore cognitive abilities.
  • Regular weed smoking can also irritate the lungs and cause respiratory issues similar to issues tobacco smokes experience.
  • Smoking weed can cause hallucinations and paranoia in some people and can make some mental health conditions worse.
  • Many consider weed to have medicinal properties, and when used with a medical prescription has helped people who suffer from illness, headaches and chronic pain.

Can You Die From Weed?

If you are wondering, “can weed kill you,” or “can you die from weed overdose,” the good news is there are no incidents of death directly from weed recorded in medical records. In fact, around 25,000 or more people on average die from alcohol use each year and tobacco use causes a wide range of health problems including terminal illness such as throat, mouth and lung cancer and related death from such serious illnesses. Tobacco is the leading cause of death in the United States costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year. No, you cannot die from weed smoking.

However, because smoking weed can impair motor coordination and judgment serious harm, injury or even death can occur when driving a vehicle.

If your next question is “can you overdose on weed,” the answer is still no. Weed is less dangerous and addicting than alcohol and tobacco. However, while many advocates, experts and weed smokers push for legality and regulation of weed more and more every day, that does not mean weed is safe to use regularly or safe for your teen to smoke.

Is Weed Addictive

Now that weed has been recreationally and medicinally legalized in many states and more widely researched, the question “is weed addictive” is finally being answered. Research suggests that, yes weed is addictive. Nine to seventeen percent of weed smokers get addicted to the substance. The younger the smoker starts the higher chance of addiction. Quitting weed comes with some withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and cravings.

Teens have a higher risk of developing addiction. According to “Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem” and stated by Laurence Steinberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University “The teen brain is a work in progress, making it more vulnerable than the mature brain to the physical effects of drugs. The potential for developing substance abuse and dependence is substantially greater when an individual’s first exposure to alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs occurs during adolescence than in adulthood.”

For many years people have considered weed a gateway drug to other harder drugs and while some research has refuted this theory, indicating it is not a gateway to harder drugs other research states that marijuana is typically the first substance a drug user tries along with tobacco and alcohol. This does not suggest that everyone who smokes weed will try something harder or will become addicted.

Can You Overdose From Weed?

One of the biggest concerns parents face with their teen’s drug use is the fear of overdosing. According to A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, Director Center for Substance Abuse Solutions at the University of Pennsylvania, overdose is one of the biggest worries among teen substance abuse, more so than addiction. However, unlike most other drugs, it is unlikely your teen can overdose from smoking weed. Teens who do smoke too much weed, however, could feel effects that make them think they are overdosing such as an increase in heart rate, paranoia and hallucinations.

While overdosing on weed is unlikely, addiction is a possibility. If you suspect your teen is using marijuana consult with their healthcare professional to understand what steps you should take to help them.

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