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Marijuana Addiction, Withdrawal, Alternatives, Recovery

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Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on January 26, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr John Motl MD

Marijuana addiction statistics from 2018 show a growing population of recreational users. For some, the prolonged symptoms of heavy marijuana use lead to requiring professional treatment and a lot of time and patience to overcome.1

Marijuana (cannabis) is a plant whose flowers, and leaves produce psychoactive and non-psychoactive chemicals. Marijuana is used for both recreational purposes as well as a promising list of alternative medical uses.

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Alternative to Meds has been a substance withdrawal help authority for over 17 years. You can review our published evidence regarding our success. Some persons suffer the harshest and most extreme symptoms from marijuana addiction that are puzzling for traditional rehabs to successfully treat. At Alternative to Meds Center, we actually specialize in these symptoms. An approach that addresses biophysical, as well as emotional healing, has the best trajectory for success. Many of our 40+ licensed professional staff have overcome these challenges ourselves, providing our staff with the compassion and understanding that they in turn grant to our clients.
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Can You Get Addicted to Marijuana?

Yes, according to statistics published by SAMHSA.2 Approximately 1 in 10 marijuana adult users can become addicted. That number increases to 1 in 6 for those under the age of 18.

The popular drug known as marijuana, weed, pot, ganja, and other names is at the hub of an ongoing debate. Marijuana is the name of a plant that has hundreds of various strains and hybrids, in which psychoactive and non-psychoactive chemicals are abundantly found. For instance, THC is a molecule that produces the euphoric effects sought by recreational users. Other extractions have proven medically useful without the intoxication effects, such as CBD. Much of the debate about marijuana stems from a lack of understanding of the diverse biology of this natural and hybridized plant. There are commonly over-exaggerated and even false statements made by both opposing sides, that will continue to require more research to fully resolve.

As would be expected by the pharmaceutical industry, THC from cannabis (having been formerly classified as an illegal substance) has been synthesized for legal drugs like Marinol© used for nausea relief in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and for AIDS patients suffering anorexia and weight loss. cannabis addiction sedona drug rehabBut now that laws have made cannabis a legal substance in many countries, much exciting medical research is ongoing on the uses of non-intoxicating forms of natural cannabis.

For recreational marijuana use, the facts are not as optimistic. Heavy marijuana use does have risks due to the high THC content of recreational marijuana, including addiction and negative health and mental health impacts. At Alternative to Meds Center, individuals often come to us with a history of marijuana use combined with other drug or alcohol use. Some individuals cannot stop using marijuana without some level of cravings or withdrawal.3-6

Recreational products that are commonly marketed as “synthetic cannabis” or “fake weed” are an ever-evolving set of non-regulated synthesized chemical concoctions that have little to no relation to natural cannabis products despite their marketing angle. Often these are highly addictive, though legally sold in convenience stores or on the street, and produce 30 times more emergency room visits than natural cannabis.8

Marijuana Side Effects

Marijuana, while not as harmful as a drug such as heroin, still has its risks and may be difficult for some individuals to stop using.

What marijuana does is over-activate the complex neural communication system, often leading to impaired coordination, the reduction of problem-solving ability, and foggy thinking, as well as disrupted memory and learning capability. There is also a relation between chronic THC use and deteriorating mental health conditions.

There are about 400 cannabinoids in marijuana. One of these is the primary psychoactive chemical, THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). THC moves through the bloodstream into the brain as well as other organs in the body. Pregnant or nursing mothers should be aware of how THC can adversely affect an unborn and nursing infant.5,6 THC affects specific areas in the brain, known as cannabinoid receptors. Usually, these receptors are triggered by brain chemicals that are similar to THC and part of neural communication systems that play an essential role in brain function and development.

marijuana side effectsWhat marijuana does is over-activate this system, often leading to impaired coordination, problems with problem-solving and thinking, as well as disrupted memory and learning. There is also a relation between chronic THC use and negative mental health conditions. An association has been shown with the development of psychosis, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in adolescents. However, more research is necessary to fully understand these connections.

Though a person may not seek help for marijuana use alone, it is often addressed in tandem with other drugs of abuse or concern. We are experts in recovery from poly-drug use and have the technology to assist in coming off multiple drugs, including prescription and non-prescription drugs in the proper sequence, safely, and gently.

The long-term effects of marijuana use include addiction. THC affects the reward centers in the brain in a similar way as other addictive substances. In addition to the potential effects on mental health and cognitive development, marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and constant marijuana smokers may develop similar respiratory issues to tobacco smokers, including a daily cough, production of phlegm, a larger risk of chest infection, and constant acute chest illness. Marijuana limits the efficiency of the brain, slows down thought processes, impairs coordination, and can cause issues in your day-to-day life or worsen existing problems. In heavy, long-term use, addiction is a documented risk as are chronic cognitive impairments.2-7

Summary of marijuana side effects:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Acute psychosis
  • Increased risk of developing schizophrenia
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Lowered IQ
  • Negatively impacts physical coordination and movement
  • Slowed reaction time, especially operating machinery or driving a vehicle
  • Impaired short-term memory, learning difficulty
  • Reduced life satisfaction
  • Lowered motivation
  • Bronchitis or other lung damage

Marijuana Addiction Treatment:  How Alternative to Meds Provides an Alternative to Addiction

recreational drug addiction sedona drug rehabWe offer a multipronged, corrective approach that targets the root(s) of the reason(s) why an individual started to chronically use substances such as marijuana. Lab testing is extensively used for diagnostic accuracy. Services offered to our clients include neurotoxin removal, natural neurochemistry rehabilitation, CBT and other forms of counseling, co-occurring disorders treatment, Qi Gong, acupuncture, colon hydrotherapy, equine therapy, diet correction, orthomolecular medicine and supplementation, and a host of other highly effective treatment options.9-12

This thorough approach allows for regaining natural balance and sustainable relief from emotional, mental, and physical discomforts. Marijuana use is often accompanied by other substances, including prescription drugs which can also carry their own set of problems. Many of our staff have experienced substance abuse and have overcome such problems through effective help. Our staff is here to provide true compassion and effective protocols for success. If you or someone you care about is using marijuana regularly and would like to stop, call us and receive more information. We will happily provide more guidance on marijuana addiction recovery in our pristine, warm, and professionally staffed facility.


1. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics US Marijuana Addiction Statistics [published c.2018] [cited 2022 Aug 31]

2. SAMHSA Learn About Marijuana Risks [published online 2022 July] [cited 2022 Aug 31]

3. FDA Drug Label Marinol (dronabinol) approved 1985 [cited 2022 Aug 31]

4. Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SR. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med. 2014 Jun 5;370(23):2219-27. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1402309. PMID: 24897085; PMCID: PMC4827335. [cited 2022 Aug 31]

5. Memedovich KA, Dowsett LE, Spackman E, Noseworthy T, Clement F. The adverse health effects and harms related to marijuana use: an overview review. CMAJ Open. 2018 Aug 16;6(3):E339-E346. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20180023. PMID: 30115639; PMCID: PMC6182105. [cited 2022 Aug 31]

6. Ng T, Gupta V. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [Updated 2021 Nov 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2022 Aug 31]

7. Van Dam NT, Earleywine M, DiGiacomo G. Polydrug use, cannabis, and psychosis-like symptoms. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2008 Aug;23(6):475-85. doi: 10.1002/hup.950. PMID: 18449850. [cited 2022 Aug 31]

8. Winstock A, Lynskey M, Borschmann R, Waldron J. Risk of emergency medical treatment following consumption of cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids in a large global sample. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Jun;29(6):698-703. doi: 10.1177/0269881115574493. Epub 2015 Mar 10. PMID: 25759401.[cited 2022 Aug 31]

9. Cui CL, Wu LZ, Luo F. Acupuncture for the treatment of drug addiction. Neurochem Res. 2008 Oct;33(10):2013-22. doi: 10.1007/s11064-008-9784-8. Epub 2008 Jul 10. PMID: 18618246.

10. Cui J, Liu F, Liu X, Li R, Chen X, Zeng H. The Impact of Qigong and Tai Chi Exercise on Drug Addiction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Psychiatry. 2022 Mar 8;13:826187. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.826187. PMID: 35350423; PMCID: PMC8957847. [cited 2022 Aug 31]

11. Jeynes KD, Gibson EL. The importance of nutrition in aiding recovery from substance use disorders: A review. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Oct 1;179:229-239. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.07.006. Epub 2017 Aug 4. PMID: 28806640. [cited 2022 Aug 31]

12. Modir, Shahla J., George E. Muñoz, and Florian Birkmayer (eds), ‘Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Substance Use and Co-Occurring Disorders’ Weil Integrative Medicine Library New York, 2018 online edn Oxford Academic 1 Sept 2018 [cited 2022 Aug 31]

Originally Published Feb 13, 2021 by Lyle Murphy

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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Marijuana Addiction, Withdrawal, Alternatives, Recovery
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