Marijuana addiction and recreational use is a growing concern among governments and users alike due to its widespread availability and recreational use. With any addiction there is both a physical and psychological component that result in a person’s inability to stop using a drug or that cause withdrawal symptoms.
Extracts of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, contain the active substance Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It acts on cannabinoid receptors which are widely distributed in the brain, producing a mixture of mild euphoric and depressant effects. Furthermore, marijuana, or more specifically THC, is relatively safe, even in overdose. In overdose, it produces drowsiness and confusion though it does not affect heart or respiratory systems.
Heavy users display some signs of marijuana addiction and tolerance. When heavy users stop using marijuana they experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, agitation, irritability, confusion, increased heart rate and sweating which could indicate marijuana addiction. However, these physical signs are not accompanied by compulsive urge to take the drug. Psychological dependence does occur though it is too minor to point towards true marijuana addiction.
While there is little evidence that users can develop a marijuana addiction, there are adverse effects of using marijuana. THC has produced birth mutations and genetic abnormalities in mice. This is currently being investigated in long term studies of cannabis users and their children. Marijuana use is proven to reduce testosterone levels and sperm count. There are some camps that argue the use of marijuana during teen years can increase the risk of schizophrenia.
The possibility of developing a marijuana addiction is unlikely though heavy users do display some characteristic signs associated with addiction. However, even if the likelihood of developing a marijuana addiction is low there are still serious adverse effects to using the drug.