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marijuana abuse

Alternative Names
cannabis abuse

Marijuana, or cannabis, abuse is a pattern of use with negative consequences. These consequences may affect all areas of life (social, occupational, school, interpersonal). Marijuana is usually smoked.

Effects include:
  • feeling of well-being
  • euphoria
  • hallucinations
  • drowsiness
  • other mental changes
In the past it was used as a sedative and painkiller. It is still used in some therapeutic treatments. It may be useful in the treatment of glaucoma and in the control of severe nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Cannabis is also known as marijuana, marihuana, pot, grass, bhang, charas, ganja, and hashish.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
An individual abusing marijuana may have any of the following long-term symptoms:
  • repeat failure to meet duties at work, school, or home
  • using marijuana when it is especially dangerous such as when driving
  • legal problems
  • ignoring consequences despite knowing the negative effects (physical, social, occupational, and interpersonal)
Short-term effects while under the influence of marijuana last 2 to 4 hours when smoked and 5 to 12 hours when taken by mouth. The effects include:
  • short-term memory impairment
  • increased appetite
  • delirium
  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • inappropriate emotions
  • disordered thinking
  • accelerated heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • bronchospasm (tightening of lung airways)
  • anxiety
  • impaired concentration, thinking ability and judgment
  • impaired perceptual and motor functions (lasts for several hours after the feeling of intoxication has lessened)
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Marijuana abuse is probably caused by several factors. These include:
  • exposure to situations that encourage drug abuse
  • personality disorders
  • one or both parents dependent upon alcohol or drugs
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Education on healthy attitudes and knowledge of the risks of drug abuse is the best prevention. Not tolerating drug use and teaching children early about the dangers of drug use are important strategies.

How is the condition diagnosed?
Urinalysis or blood tests can show if a person has used marijuana.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Long-term effects are similar to those of smoking any substance. They include:
  • heart problems
  • narrowing and inflammation of airways
  • reduced breathing capacity
  • damage to bronchial cells
  • frequent bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer
  • loss of ambition or inability to carry out long-term plans or function effectively
What are the risks to others?
Marijuana abuse reduces judgment, impulse and motor control. An abuser puts others at risk for accidents and emotional injury.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment begins by helping the person admit there is a problem. Overcoming denial is the first step. Complete abstinence is needed. There is no physical addiction, so detoxification programs are not needed. Recovery programs are helpful. They teach coping skills and life management strategies. Self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous have helped thousands remain drug free.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
Those who complete treatment often continue with counselling or self-help groups. They will voluntarily participate in self-help groups indefinitely.

Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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