December 11, 2023

THC Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Marijuana is a drug derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects. THC addiction is clinically described as marijuana use disorder. Like all substance use disorders, THC addiction is treatable with evidence-based interventions.

Is THC Addictive?

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While researchers now acknowledge that THC is addicting, there is no consensus on the degree of addictiveness associated with the substance. One major study suggests that roughly 30% of those who use marijuana may develop an addiction, while another study has approximated a 10% likelihood of addiction among those who use marijuana products. People who use the drug during youth or adolescence are believed to be at increased risk of developing THC addiction.  

Unlike substances that trigger physical dependence – opioids or alcohol, for instance – THC can create psychological dependence in some people who use the drug. Rather than causing physical withdrawal symptoms, regular THC use influences the brain’s reward system, prompting a desire to maintain its effects. Psychological dependence can result in cravings and compulsive use, even when physical withdrawal symptoms are absent.

Although THC is generally considered less addictive than other substances, a subset of individuals may develop problematic usage patterns leading to addiction. Factors influencing risk profile include frequency of use, age of initiation, genetic predisposition, and the presence of co-occurring mental health issues.

Chronic THC use may lead to tolerance, where higher doses are required for the same effects. Increasing intake may accelerate the development of physical dependence on marijuana, characterized by the presentation of withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Withdrawal symptoms associated with THC cessation are typically milder than those of substances like opioids or alcohol. However, irritability, insomnia, changes in appetite, and mood swings can be experienced by some people attempting to quit or reduce marijuana use.

Individual responses to THC vary widely. While many people can use marijuana recreationally without developing problematic patterns, others may be more vulnerable to addiction due to the genetic, environmental, and personal factors outlined above.

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Signs of THC Addiction

Here are some specific signs associated with THC addiction:

  • Social withdrawal: Individuals experiencing THC addiction may gradually withdraw from social activities they once enjoyed. Social isolation can be a response to a preoccupation with obtaining and using marijuana.
  • Neglect of responsibilities: A growing disregard for personal, academic, or professional responsibilities is a common sign of THC addiction. This may manifest as a decline in work or academic performance and neglect of familial or occupational duties.
  • Financial strain: Persistent financial difficulties, especially if linked to the funding of marijuana use, may indicate an escalating dependence on THC. Individuals might prioritize purchasing marijuana over meeting essential financial obligations.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors: The pursuit of risky behaviors while under the influence of THC can be a red flag. This may include illegal activities or compromising personal safety.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies: A diminishing interest in previously enjoyed hobbies or activities may signal the prioritization of THC use over other aspects of life. This shift in interests shows how addiction impacts overall well-being.
  • Increased tolerance to THC: Individuals developing tolerance to THC may find that the desired effects are diminishing, leading them to increase their marijuana consumption to achieve the same level of euphoria or relaxation.
  • Experiencing legal issues: Legal problems stemming from marijuana use, such as arrests or charges related to possession or impaired driving, may point to a problematic relationship with THC. Legal consequences are often a wake-up call for those grappling with addiction.
  • Decline in physical health: Chronic THC use can contribute to deteriorating physical health. Signs may include respiratory issues, decreased motivation for physical activity, and compromised well-being.
  • Secrecy and deception: Concealing the extent of marijuana use and engaging in deceptive behavior to hide the addiction from friends, family, or colleagues can be indicative of a growing dependence on THC.
  • Emotional instability: Fluctuations in mood, heightened irritability, or emotional instability beyond what might be typical for the individual can be associated with THC addiction. These emotional shifts may be more noticeable during periods of abstinence.
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: A persistent pattern of using THC despite experiencing negative consequences in various aspects of life, including relationships, work, or health, underscores the compulsive nature of addiction.

Recognizing these signs can inform early intervention, streamlining treatment and recovery. Individuals exhibiting multiple signs of THC addiction should seek professional help to address the underlying issues contributing to their dependence and develop a comprehensive plan for recovery.\

Symptoms of THC Addiction

DSM-5-TR – the fifth revised edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by American Psychiatric Association – outlines criteria for diagnosing marijuana use disorder. To satisfy the criteria for this disorder, an individual must exhibit a problematic pattern of marijuana use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. Here are the 11 symptoms identified by DSM:

  1. Using marijuana in larger quantities or for longer than originally intended.
  2. Unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control marijuana use, despite a desire to do so.
  3. A significant amount of time is spent acquiring and using marijuana or recovering from the effects.
  4. Intense cravings for marijuana mainfest.
  5. Marijuana use interferes with responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  6. Persistent marijuana use despite recurring social or interpersonal issues related to its use.
  7. Abandoning or reducing participation in important activities due to marijuana use.
  8. Using marijuana in situations where it poses a physical risk, such as driving.
  9. Continued use despite awareness of physical or psychological issues related to marijuana use.
  10. Developing a tolerance, requiring more marijuana to achieve the desired effects.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when marijuana use is reduced or discontinued.

Meeting two or more of these criteria within a 12-month period indicates the presence of marijuana use disorder (THC addiction), with the severity determined by the number of symptoms present: mild (2 to 3 symptoms), moderate (4 to 5 symptoms), or severe (6 or more symptoms). Individuals exhibiting these symptoms should seek professional evaluation and assistance for appropriate intervention and treatment.

FAQ

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Can you get addicted to THC?

Yes, some people can become dependent on THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Regular and prolonged use may lead to a psychological addiction, impacting aspects of daily life.

How addictive is THC?

The addictiveness of THC varies from person to person. While some individuals may use the drug without developing any issues, others may develop an addiction. Risk for THC addiction is influenced by factors such as frequency of use, dosage, and individual susceptibility.

What is THC vaping addiction?

THC vaping addiction refers to the addictive patterns associated with the inhalation of e-liquids that contain THC through vaping devices. This form of addiction shares similarities with other methods of THC consumption but may present unique risks due to the rapid onset of effects and potential for high concentrations of THC in vaping products.

Treatment for THC Addiction

Addressing marijuana addiction involves a comprehensive approach that considers the person’s unique circumstances and the severity of their disorder. Various treatment modalities are available to help people overcome marijuana addiction and regain control over their lives. 

Assessment and evaluation

Before implementing a treatment plan, a thorough assessment is conducted to understand the individual’s history of marijuana use, co-occurring mental health issues, and overall health. This evaluation helps tailor the treatment accordingly.

Detoxification

In cases of severe marijuana addiction, a supervised detoxification process may be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms. Although marijuana withdrawal symptoms are generally mild, some people may experience irritability, insomnia, and mood swings during the initial stages of abstinence.

Counseling and therapy

Behavioral therapies, such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) and motivational enhancement therapy, can be effectively used to treat marijuana addiction. Behavioral and motivational therapies address the psychological aspects of addiction, helping people identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior.

Support groups

Participation in support groups like MA (Marijuana Anonymous) or general addiction support groups, provides a supportive community of peers facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and receiving encouragement from others in recovery can be a powerful motivator for ongoing abstinence.

Family therapy

Involving family members in the treatment process can be beneficial for all parties. Family therapy helps improve communication, address familial dynamics that may contribute to addiction, and create a supportive environment for the person in recovery from marijuana addiction.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

While there are no specific medications approved for treating marijuana use disorder, medications may be prescribed to manage co-occurring mental health issues like depression or anxiety that could contribute to the addiction.

Holistic approaches

Integrating holistic approaches can contribute to overall well-being during recovery. Activities such as mindfulness practices, yoga, and exercise promote stress reduction and support mental and physical health.

Aftercare and relapse prevention

A robust aftercare plan is a key component of any comprehensive addiction treatment program. This may include ongoing therapy, support group participation, and strategies for managing triggers and preventing relapse.

Treatment plans should be personalized, addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, to promote lasting recovery and a healthier, substance-free life. Here’s how you can get help right away.

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Call Addiction Hotline for Help with Drug Addiction

If you or someone that you care about needs advice and assistance with drug addiction treatment, we can help you at Addiction Hotline in California.

Call 855-701-0479 toll-free at any time. Experienced and trained hotline operators can help you with all areas of addiction and treatment. Hotline staff can answer your queries and provide referrals if required to addiction specialists, inpatient and outpatient rehabs, and healthcare providers near you.

Drug addiction is a progressive condition that usually gets worse unless treated, so call 855-701-0479 without delay.

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