Marijuana or Cannabis Sativa


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Quitting Marijuana- A 30 Day Self Help Guide

Marijuana has been one of the most popular and one of the most controversial drugs throughout modern history. Arguments have existed for years on several topics concerning marijuana use: is it addictive, is it safer to use than alcohol, is it a gateway to other drugs?

A good place to start is to explore one of the first myths heard during the early years of prevention. For example, in the 1970s, advertisements showed someone jumping out of a second story window after smoking marijuana. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, advertisements aimed at prevention continued to show that if someone got high, something bad would immediately happen, or those that smoked marijuana were morally bad. Because addiction to marijuana like other drugs is progressive, nothing bad probably happened the first or second time, or maybe nothing too horrible has happened yet. It than becomes natural to begin to question what everyone has been saying about marijuana. For some people they maybe barely felt anything the first time they smoked, the police didn’t show up to arrest them for drug use, and friends still seemed to be the good people they knew. As with alcohol many times something bad doesn’t happen for awhile. Or, eventually things may happen but they occur to different degrees for different people. Addiction with substances such as alcohol and marijuana is slow and progressive. As with any substance initially it may feel good, and so use continues to increase and possibly can become more abusive. It can and eventually will make “bad things” happen to “good people.” The biggest deterrent that seems to stop students after first use is the anxiety and panic that some may experience with initial use of marijuana.

Second only to alcohol, marijuana is the most popular and widely used drug in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 95 million Americans age 12 and older have tried pot at least once. By 2001, the proportion of under-18 users had increased by 67% since the 1960’s. Researchers attribute this to the significant increase of pro-drug messages in multimedia venues. Students of all ages today have access to the Internet where they can easily find websites that promote marijuana use, kits for beating drug tests, and can advertise and sell marijuana and paraphernalia. Meanwhile, the prevalence of higher potency marijuana (which is measured by the levels of THC delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is increasing.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana is much more powerful and so are the mind-altering effects associated with use. Average THC levels rose from less than one percent in the mid-1970s to more than six percent in 2002. This means that even what is considered just skunk weed, can be six to ten times more potent than what was available in the 60’s and 70’s. No marijuana is the same; dealers can mix marijuana with other substances, from oregano to being laced with PCP, which means you can’t rely on what you are getting. There are 250 different substances in marijuana smoke. Sinsemilla potency increased in the past two decades from six percent to more than 13 percent, with some samples containing THC levels of up to 33 percent.

Is marijuana addictive? Is marijuana harmful? Is marijuana worse than alcohol?

Myth: Marijuana is not addictive

This manual began by addressing the myth that the first time someone uses they don’t usually experience the negative things that they have been told as a youth. This many times leads one to doubt the harmful effects and continue to use the drug. The most popular myth to explore is whether marijuana is addictive. For years it was believed that marijuana could not be addictive and many people today still hold that belief to be true. Current research supports that marijuana is both physically addictive and psychologically addictive.

Marijuana meets the criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) for substance dependence. A person needs three of the following criteria occurring at any time in the same 12-month period to meet the diagnosis of dependency.

  1. Tolerance: needing more of the substance to achieve the same effects, or diminished effect with the same amount of the substance. Individuals with heavy use of cannabis are generally not aware of having developed tolerance.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms: with marijuana use this can be experienced as irritability, restlessness, loss of appetite, trouble with sleeping, weight loss, shaky hands and loss of motivation. Some people have displayed increased verbal and physical aggression after one week of not using marijuana.
  3. Continuation of use despite the presence of adverse effects: a person continues to use even after they have hurt someone or themselves, have experienced suicidal ideations, relationship problems, etc. related to use.
  4. Giving up social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the use of marijuana. Due to the progressive nature of these symptoms, the user does not recognize these changes despite comments and concerns of others. As the use of marijuana increases a person slowly changes their social group and activities with peers who use about the same if not more. This tends to normalize use for the person despite the increase in need.
  5. The individual may withdraw from family activities and hobbies in order to use the substance in private or to spend more time with substance-using friends. Despite recognizing the role of the substance contributing to a psychological or physical problem the person continues use.
  6. Marijuana is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.
  7. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
The THC from just one joint takes 7 days to get out of the body, and 42 days if someone is a daily user. Withdrawal starts 3 weeks after someone’s last dose.

Physiological Behavioral Sleep
Nausea Restlessness/agitation Insomnia
Perspiration (sweating) Irritability Disrupted sleep
Tremors Depressed mood
Weight loss, decreased appetite Aggression (in different degrees)
Increased body temperature Loss of motivation

According to a 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, marijuana use has been shown to be three times more likely to lead to dependence among adolescents than among adults. Research by JC Gfroerer, and J.F. Epstein 1999 indicates that the earlier adolescents starts using marijuana, the more likely they are to become dependent on this or other illicit drugs later in life. This does not mean marijuana is a gateway drug, but early use can be one of numerous factors that influence future use.