Signs that a Young Man is Addicted to Marijuana

With the increased legalization and decriminalization of marijuana across the country, many young men are beginning to experiment with the drug and justify their continued use. Marijuana advocates contend that the substance can't be addictive because more and more states are choosing to legalize it. This logic is a pervasive fallacy. Alcohol and cigarettes are both known to be highly addictive substances, yet they are still legal. Legality alone is not enough to make a substance safe for sustained or even one-time use.

While marijuana is not addictive in the same way that heroin or other illicit substances may be, it's users can quickly become dependent on the way it affects their thought patterns and physical experience.  Marijuana withdrawal often fails to produce stereotypical symptoms, such as shakiness, excessive sweating, and extreme rage, but marijuana users who try to stop can experience irritability, anxiety, decreased appetite, and a desire to continue using. Intense physical withdrawal symptoms don't need to be present for an addiction to be legitimate. Many marijuana users refer to the drug as "chronic" because of how common it is for users to feel the need to chronically use every day for months, years, or decades at a time. At this time, there are no recorded overdose deaths that can be attributed to marijuana alone, but the impacts of the sustained use of the drug can create other devastating consequences, including decreased memory and problem-solving skills, chronic respiratory problems, general lack of motivation, and increased risk of developing mental illness. These effects are particularly harmful to young men.  Those who use often tend to be so consumed with their use and the lifestyle that accompanies it, that they are unable to establish the solid financial, educational, and relational foundation that is necessary for a successful adult life.

Young men that use marijuana typically display a wide range of behaviors that are concerning. If you are worried that a young man you know may be addicted to marijuana be on the lookout for the following:

Atypical Academic Struggles

Marijuana can impact a young man's ability to think clearly, problem solve, and remember information, both in the short and long term. These cognitive struggles can cause grades for high school and college students to begin to slip below what is typical. Some youth are born with cognitive delays or learning disabilities (like dyslexia and ADHD), however, if academic issues come on suddenly and without warning, there may be cause for concern regarding marijuana usage.


Lack of Motivation

Many young men who use marijuana wake up every morning with one goal: to get high. This focus makes it difficult for these individuals to maintain any other priorities. Users may seem uninterested or unmotivated towards goals they were previously passionate about. Perhaps a young man you know is working fewer hours, seems less interested in the college search process, or is less committed to their sports team or music group. A lack of motivation related to anything other than getting high is widespread in young men who are battling marijuana addiction.

Respiratory Concerns 

Marijuana can be ingested in several different ways, including edible food items and through vaporizing very concentrated THC compounds called "dabs." The most common method of use, however, is through smoking. Individuals can smoke marijuana out of glass pipes or bubblers, with cigarette rolling papers (joints), hollowed out cigars (blunts) and even using creative, homemade smoking devices like apples and soda bottles. Marijuana is almost always unfiltered, and the smoke and burned plant matter can wreak havoc on the lungs. Many marijuana users suffer from continued chest colds, a chronic cough, and increased phlegm production. Users who are addicted to the substance, and smoke on a frequent basis, may suffer exacerbated symptoms.

A New Circle of Friends 

Young men who use marijuana typically gravitate towards other individuals who do the same. If a young man you know has suddenly surrounded himself with a new group of friends and is no longer connecting with the positive and productive people he was once very close to, he may be using marijuana or other drugs. 

Chronic Red Eye 

Marijuana can cause a dry mouth, and also dry eyes. Dry, irritated, eyes often appear red and can sometimes be sensitive to light. Some chronic marijuana users use eye drops on a regular basis to hide this symptom.
A Change in Appetite and/or Personality: Marijuana can impact the appetite. Some users experience an increase in appetite while using (referred to as "the munchies"), and some users find it difficult to eat without having smoked marijuana, which can lead to a general decrease in appetite. Marijuana can also increase the likelihood of the onset of schizophrenia in individuals predisposed to the illness. Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and catatonia.

Is There a Skunk in the Room? 

Over the last several decades, marijuana has become more and more potent. The drugs that this generation is consuming is much stronger than the milder "hippie" drug that was popular in the 60s and 70s. While many young men that use marijuana have methods of getting the strong smell out of their clothing (airing out, smoking a cigarette, using cologne or body spray, putting on a jacket, etc.), the scent of actual drug paraphernalia is difficult to miss. Pipes, joints, grinders, and marijuana itself, because of the newfound high potency, has a lingering, pervasive smell that is immediately noticeable. If you notice the all too common skunky smell of marijuana on your son or loved one on a regular basis, the young man in your life may have a marijuana addiction.

These symptoms can also be present for individuals suffering from other substance abuse or mental health disorders. To accurately identify the cause for the erratic and uncharacteristic behavior of the young man in your life, reach out to a qualified substance abuse counselor or ready for intervention.