Marijuana

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. More than 75 million Americans (34%) over the age of 12 have tried it at least once and 19 million have used it in the past year. It is ingested primarily by smoking or taken orally. Psychologically, it causes altered consciousness, relaxation, giddiness, impaired short-term memory and concentration, and sexual arousal, though it has a fair share of adverse effects and long-term damage.

In the past few years, potency of marijuana has increased—causing more rapid intoxication with a smaller amount. Blunts, or marijuana cigars, are a new and popular method for smoking marijuana; reportedly they provide a better "high" than joints. Blunts are made by removing cigar tobacco and wrapping the marijuana in cigar leaf, which contains tobacco and nicotine.

There are approximately 800,000 people now suffering from marijuana abuse or dependence. If you or someone you love is suffering from marijuana dependence, please don't hesitate to call Fifth Avenue Psychiatry for information and treatment options.

Recent Findings on Marijuana

Contrary to many popular beliefs about marijuana, recent research has found the drug to be addictive, a gateway drug and potentially a cause of psychotic disorder later in life.

Marijuana manipulates the brain's stress and reward systems in the same way as other reinforcing substances (Tanda, et al., 1997; de Fonseca et al., 1997). Withdrawal from marijuana is associated with the release of chemicals in the amygdala. The same release is found during withdrawal from opiates, cocaine and alcohol. This suggests that long-term marijuana use alters the limbic system similar to other drugs of abuse and may result in future vulnerability to drug dependence.

There is a strong relationship between marijuana use and drug use later in life. Early exposure to marijuana increases the likelihood of years of a subsequent drug problem (Denehardt, et al, 2001). The combination of earlier onset and stronger marijuana may increase anxiety and apathy in teens and make other drug use more attractive.

There are higher rates of marijuana use among people with psychotic disorders than the general population. Marijuana has also been found to aggravate the symptoms and course of schizophrenia. With chronic use, it is also found to contribute to mood and anxiety disorders.

Adverse Effects of Marijuana Use

Higher doses of marijuana ingestion, hallucinations, usually visual may occur; sometimes accompanied by paranoid delusions. Using marijuana while pregnant may cause ectopic pregnancy. A long-term effect of prenatal marijuana exposure is increase likelihood of marijuana use during adolescence (Porath & Fried, 2005).

There are many other long-term findings of marijuana's effects on users. In teenage girls, weekly use predicts a twofold increase in depression and anxiety, daily use a fourfold increase (Araneault, et al., 2002). Early onset of marijuana use is also associated with lower grades, a negative attitude towards school, increased absenteeism, and early school drop out.

There are higher rates of marijuana use among people with psychotic disorders than the general population. There is increasing evidence of the involvement of chronic marijuana use in mood and anxiety disorders, as well as earlier onset of schizophrenia and schizophrenic relapse.

How is Marijuana Addiction Treated?

Over the last three decades, marijuana potency has increased, the age of onset has decreased and more individuals are now seeking treatment for marijuana abuse or dependence. Many take marijuana use lightly when it is really a dangerous and potentially addictive substance.

At Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, Dr. Glazer personalizes treatment for each patient. Using a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods, he will make treatment as effective as possible. An outpatient detox can be arranged using carefully monitored medication. Treatment is then focused on the individual, using psychotherapy, relapse prevention, and office-based treatment.

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