What is Marijuana Use Disorder?

While drug use has continued to drop off in most age groups, marijuana has become more popular than ever and continues to be the most used federally illegal drug in the US.

However, just because it is federally illegal doesn’t mean it is completely off-limits – more than 16 states have legalized recreational marijuana, and over 30 states allow the use of medical marijuana, which is part of the reason why it continues to grow in usage in comparison to other substances.

There is a myriad of reasons why the legalization of marijuana is a good thing, especially in the context of the damage its criminalization has done to minority communities and the immense costs of the futile drug-on wars. But policy aside, marijuana remains a controlled substance federally and is prohibited for use among children and teens under 18 years of age.

There are multiple pieces of research pointing towards the long-term negative effects of marijuana use and the existence of marijuana use disorder. Just because it is becoming legal in multiple states doesn’t make it harmless – and just because some people argue that it is less dangerous than certain other substances doesn’t make it so.

Is Marijuana Dangerous?

Marijuana, or cannabis, is a product derived mostly from treated Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa plants. Different strains come with different characteristic effects and flavors, but most of the differences between types of marijuana can be attributed to either being a Sativa strain or an Indica strain.

The main active component in either type of plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid with psychoactive effects. Modern-day cannabis is usually bred to produce more or less THC, depending on its uses. Aside from the raw product or treated and dried component, cannabis is also sold and consumed in the form of hash oil, hashish, hash butter, and hemp oil (low THC). In most cases, cannabis is harvested for its leaves and flowering buds.

The effects of THC vary from person to person, in both quality and severity. In general, marijuana use leads to relaxation and euphoria, increased appetite, giggling, and mild changes in visual and aural perception. Increased dosages or increased potency can lead to stronger and more potent changes in perception. Outside of high dosages or concentrated THC, these are relatively rare.

The dangers of marijuana come from both its long-term health problems, consuming both marijuana and alcohol, as well as its effects on perception.

People with pre-existing mental health problems, particularly episodes of psychosis, or a history of schizophrenia, are more likely to trigger a hallucinatory event when consuming marijuana. Marijuana may also make operating heavy machinery much more dangerous, like any intoxicating substance.

Because marijuana has a calming and physically depressive effect, it may compound uniquely with alcohol to induce a dangerous level of memory impairment, difficulty breathing, and paranoia. While most people experience euphoria while taking marijuana, it can also have the opposite effect in some cases, inducing high levels of stress and anxiety.

Finally, the long-term effects of marijuana are still being studied but may include decreased cognitive capacitymemory impairmentlung and throat problemsworsening symptoms of mental illness, and addiction.

There are no confirmed instances of a marijuana overdose, but marijuana can be an influencing factor in different causes of death, including polydrug-induced respiratory failure, vaping injuries or illnesses, and car accidents. Furthermore, high concentration THC marijuana can send people to the emergency room, but it’ll usually be due to severe levels of anxiety, psychotic episodes, or nausea.

First responders called when people take too much marijuana state that the cause is usually an edible rather than smoking the drug. Young children, however, are particularly at risk of eating an edible and becoming violently ill.

Medical Applications for Marijuana

CBD (cannabidiol) has seen much research as a potential medical drug and is legal under federal law. The first FDA-approved use of a cannabinoid was as an antiseizure drug in the treatment of epilepsy. So far, only one other cannabinoid has been approved for medical use, and that is dronabinol. While THC remains illegal, studies have shown that medical marijuana is potentially beneficial for:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer treatment-related nausea
  • Severe chronic pain

In most cases, medical marijuana may be bred to include lower levels of THC. State-specific qualifications for obtaining medical marijuana differ from state to state. If you do consider using marijuana for medical purposes, beware of its side effects and addiction potential.

How Much Marijuana is Too Much?

Like any other drug, it is impossible to determine a proper limiting dosage to prevent addictive effects. Some people can use marijuana on occasion for years and stop using it forever. Others might struggle to moderate their usage after a few months and end up dependent on the drug for decades.

If used at the behest of a medical professional, limit your dosage strictly to what is prescribed, even when using a low THC strain. Your own predisposition towards THC may be stronger or weaker than average, changing its relative dangerousness.

In any case, THC (and marijuana in general) is an addictive substance and an intoxicating substance.

Signs of Marijuana Use Disorder

Marijuana use disorder may occur in roughly 9 to 30 percent of people who use marijuana regularly. People who use the drug before the age of 18 are up to seven times more likely to develop an addiction. Marijuana use disorder has the same symptoms as other forms of a substance use disorder, namely:

  • Inability to quit (constant relapse)
  • Hiding marijuana use
  • Becoming defensive over their habit
  • Struggling at school or at work due to marijuana
  • Consuming marijuana much more frequently than normal

Withdrawal symptoms of marijuana include anxiety, loss of appetite, restlessness/insomnia, and irritability.

Seeking Treatment for Marijuana Use Disorder

Treatment for a marijuana use disorder is often necessary, as a common criterion for a substance use disorder is the inability to quit. Teens and adults with marijuana use problems can opt between inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on the severity of their case and their circumstances.

Treatment for a marijuana use disorder begins with detoxification and therapy. Behavioral support is an important element, rewarding people who stay drug-free and providing relevant motivational incentives.

While there are no medications to help treat marijuana use disorder, a patient who began using as a result of their mental health issues (self-medication) will be treated with medication and talk therapy to help them develop healthier coping skills and better long-term stress management options.


Long-Term Health Effects of Teen Cannabis Use Disorder

While society is becoming increasingly accepting of cannabis both medically and recreationally, and discussions around legalization are becoming more frequent, cannabis is not a strictly safe or harmless substance. There are clear dangers around its use, especially recreationally and especially for younger adults and teens. Despite its potential in treating nausea during chemotherapy and the host of benefits we may see through more research, long-term cannabis use is still destructive. It may impact both a teen’s cognitive and physical health.

Weighing the Dangers of Cannabis

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug with the potential for addiction and a host of long-term health issues associated with excessive and chronic use. While millions of Americans can use the drug occasionally and put it back down without any significant drawbacks, there are indications that it is not safe for everyone, and using the drug over years and decades may lead to a host of physical and psychological issues.

Some of the health issues associated with cannabis can be attributed to its psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol. However, cannabis also contains many other cannabinoids that bind to receptors in the body and affect cognitive function, heart function, and even bone health. The most significant risks associated with cannabis aside from addiction are an increased potential for symptoms of psychosis (as well as stronger symptoms in patients with psychotic disorders) and potential links to adverse long-term effects on cognition and long-term memory.

Whether or not cannabis is dangerous can depend on the quality and source of the drug, the method with which it is consumed (is it smoked along with tobacco? Consumed as an oil? Taken through a vape?), the frequency and degree to which cannabis is used, and individual factors such as a person’s hereditary risk factors towards addiction and drug use, and co-occurring mental health issues that might compound with cannabis use and worsen because of it.

Can Marijuana Use Lead to Addiction?

There is no question about whether cannabis can cause an addiction, where addiction is used to describe a substance use disorder characterized by continued use despite a negative impact on several aspects of one’s life and an inability to stop using without support, even when committed to quitting. Dependence, which includes withdrawal symptoms, is also commonly associated with a substance use disorder.

The question may be at what point long-term use becomes an addiction, how quickly cannabis can cause addiction (i.e., how addictive it is), and what risk factors specifically influence the risk of cannabis addiction. Data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse suggests that up to 30 percent of people who use the drug may be diagnosed with cannabis use disorder. In particular, teens are four to seven times more likely to develop an addiction than adults.

Part of the reason why cannabis is potentially more addictive than it may have been in the past is that, due to the growing international market for the drug, as well as more significant investments in the development of stronger strains and better highs, the THC content within the cannabis has steadily increased for decades. Cannabis confiscated in the 1990s had a THC level of about 4 percent – this has since more than tripled to about 15 percent in 2018.

Depending on how cannabis is consumed, certain forms of consumption lead to greater THC bioavailability than others. While there are many other cannabinoids in cannabis, such as cannabidiol, THC is the ingredient responsible for the high and most often linked to addiction.

Signs of Teen Cannabis Use Disorder

The signs and symptoms that should be watched out for the most are increased resistance to the drug’s effects at the same dose and using more cannabis over time. Lack of will to stop using despite the negative impact on one’s social life and performance at work or school is another potential sign. Cannabis addiction is much more likely to occur in teens who:

    • Have trouble forming social connections
    • Lack a list of responsibilities or close relationships
    • Struggle with mental health issues

Drugs like alcohol and cannabis can act like magic bullets for a first-time drug user struggling with depression or anxiety – they make you feel better, help your worries melt away, or help you feel at ease. But these effects do not last for very long and are repeated, and long-term use can have severe consequences. Specific conditions that seem most likely to be linked to cannabis use disorder include:

Long-Term Effects of Teen Cannabis Use

The long-term effects of teen cannabis use are still being researched, but preliminary research reveals that long-term use of the drug can lead to:

Cognitive Effects

Cannabis’s long-term cognitive effects primarily consist of memory problems, the capacity to learn, and impulse control. Interestingly, different results are observed depending on whether the drug was used for the first time or over long periods. Additionally, cannabis has been linked to developing stronger symptoms of psychosis, particularly in patients with the following mental health conditions (but not limited to):

When no signs of psychosis were present previously, the condition is called a substance-induced psychotic disorder. Psychosis is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, dissociation, and odd/disordered thinking. It can be described as losing touch with reality.

Respiratory Effects

Depending on how the drug is ingested, cannabis can cause respiratory problems, including lung cancer, either through smoke inhalation or the long-term effects of a vaping-associated lung injury.

Addressing Teen Cannabis Use Disorder

If your teen is struggling to quit using cannabis or wants to useless and cannot, seeking professional help as early as possible may be the most effective way to combat the problem. Teen substance use disorders are best addressed through a combination of inpatient or outpatient treatment, which can include:

    • Detox and time spent in a drug-free environment
    • One-on-one and group therapy
    • Family therapy

Cannabis use disorder treatment can help teens develop an individualized toolset for identifying and addressing urges and cravings constructively through healthier coping mechanisms and a robust support system composed of friends, family, and community leaders.

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Drug Addiction in Youth: Common Misconceptions

The way we think about addiction has to change if we are ever going to make a difference as caretakers, confidants, friends and family members. More specifically, we should think differently about drug addiction in our youth and the common misconceptions about it. Only recently has the addiction community begun to develop specialized addiction treatment centers for teens struggling with dependency.

Visions Adolescent Treatment Center has fought for awareness of addiction and the difficulty it creates in these children’s lives. We have made it our purpose to share everything we can about addiction in adolescents from the earliest age of 12 because it should be a concern we address. You have a choice to open your eyes and see what we see every day. Don’t ignore the signs and assume nothing that can be done; there is, you just have to listen and see.

The common misconception of adolescent addiction are:

  • “My child tells me everything. They would never get involved in something like that.”

Most of the time our children will hold something back from us, no matter how well we think we know them. It’s important that we continue to work on our familial relationships and communication because if we don’t big changes like addiction can happen when we’re not. We should make sharing new experiences and thoughts comfortable and something we do each day at home. If your children and siblings are comfortable talking with you, then you will see any change as it happens and be able to reach out to them.

  • “You can only develop an addiction as an adult.”

This is a big misconception because trying something like alcohol at an early age or smoking a joint, can seem like just a thing that kids do. But, addiction can develop in children very early on in their lives; it can also be something bigger if you pay attention. Because adolescents haven’t developed completely in the areas of the brain that deal with decision making and consequence, addiction is the most real thing. When they think nothing is bad for them or could hurt them, this is when they try these things. Understand that teens are most vulnerable at this time.

The argument for this has gone on for years but for treatment centers and adolescent addiction advocates, we know that this is not the case. About ten percent of kids that smoke it before 19 can become dependent and addicted to marijuana. It isn’t just your mother’s marijuana anymore, because it’s grown with chemically enhanced additives. We should be careful to say that it doesn’t affect brain chemistry.

  • “Prescriptions help my child. They have to be good for them since they were prescribed by a physician.”

Before you turn to a prescription drug to solve your teens problems, remember that what you agree to give them isn’t natural. Unless absolutely necessary, many of these drugs that work to reduce the effects of ADHD and emotional mental health conditions may do more harm than you think. Prescription drugs are of the most addictive of them all. Once you give them a prescription, it’s not guaranteed they won’t abuse the medication. Just because it’s a pill given to you by a doctor doesn’t mean it can’t harm you.

Now that you know some of the ideas you should watch out for in your own thinking, share what you’ve learned with your family about addiction. You can save your child from addiction if you’re open minded. Call Visions Adolescent Treatment Center to find out more about specific addictions and how we can help your teen recover at 866-889-3665.

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Marijuana Use and Early Puberty: New Study

The legalization of pot for both medicinal and recreational purposes in a number of states has raised concerns that users will begin to view this substance as safe and even beneficial. This trend may be particularly troubling among young users, particularly since marijuana has been linked to impaired brain development and function. Now, a new study has found that marijuana use at a young age may also lead to early puberty, while stunting growth in young men.

Marijuana, Growth and Puberty
Researchers from Pir Mehr Ali Shah Agriculture University Rawalpindi in Pakistan compared 217 boys with marijuana use disorders to 220 non-smoking boys. They focused on differences in puberty and growth hormones, using blood tests to determine the precise level of hormones in all of the test subjects. The scientists also measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol, using saliva samples from some of the marijuana users.

The study found that hormones related to puberty, including testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) were at higher levels in the marijuana users than in the non-smoking group. This finding indicates that puberty may come at an earlier age for the marijuana users, since the hormones were present earlier. These findings are concerning for a number of reasons, including the fact that early puberty has been linked to a younger onset of drinking and smoking.

At the same time, researchers found a decrease in the levels of growth hormones in the marijuana using group. When the marijuana-using subjects were checked again at the age of 20, they were found to be an average of 4.6 inches shorter and nine pounds lighter than their non-smoking counterparts.

Marijuana and Stress
Researchers also found elevated levels of cortisol in the boys that used marijuana regularly. The scientists theorized that the increase in the stress hormone may be a factor in the suppression of growth and the stimulation of early puberty. The findings may also support previous studies that indicate marijuana may actually exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, rather than alleviating them.

The Prevalence of Marijuana Use
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the U.S. today. Nearly half of all Americans said they have tried marijuana, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 11.7 percent of eighth graders had used marijuana in 2014.

Legalization of the drug has led to mistaken perceptions that the drug is safe. However, like other illicit substances, marijuana can be habit-forming and lead to serious and long-term damage to the mind and body. If you are struggling with marijuana abuse, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665.

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Study Finds More People are Smoking Pot

A new study has found that pot use has been on the rise for the past decade, along with marijuana use disorders. While many have touted this drug as safe in recent years, primarily for the purpose of legalizing its use, statistics and studies continue to indicate those claims do not hold as much water as people would like to think. With more people smoking pot than ever before, it is important to educate yourself about the dangers associated with this drug and the possible ramifications of this legalization trend.

Marijuana Use Doubles, Study Finds
Researchers looked at data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which consisted of face-to-face individuals between 2001 and 2002 and again between 2012 and 2013. The interviews asked about marijuana use within the past year, as well as potential signs or a diagnosis of marijuana abuse or dependency. More than 43,000 responses were examined from 2001-2002 and more than 36,000 were assessed from 2012-2013.

The study found that marijuana use increased from four percent of adults in 2001-2002 to 10 percent in 2012-2013. At the same time, marijuana abuse increased from 1.5 percent to three percent, indicating the drug may be more addictive than legalization proponents claim. Increases were particularly noted among African-Americans, Hispanics and women. The age range for marijuana use also broadened, with increases seen among middle-aged adults and seniors.

Not Limited to Adults
While this recent study was limited to adults in the U.S., increased use among teens has also been noted. A report from the National Institutes of Health in 2013 found an increasing number of teenagers do not see marijuana as harmful, which has led to an increased use among this demographic as well. In 2003, around six percent of 12th graders said they had used pot, compared to 6.5 percent that said they used marijuana regularly in 2013. A growing number of teens have also determined that pot use is not harmful, a concerning statistic to those working with teens and adults struggling with marijuana abuse.

At the same time marijuana use is on the rise, legalization of the substance is spreading. Currently, 23 states have legalized pot for medicinal use, while four have legalized it for recreational use. Other states have legalizations questions on future ballots, indicating this issue is likely to become more widespread.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen firsthand the toll marijuana abuse can take on teen and their families. We offer treatment programs to help teens overcome their substance addiction and discover new life in sobriety. To get help today, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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What is “Dabbing”?

Dabbing, a new way of getting “high” from the active ingredient in marijuana, is quickly gaining popularity today, particularly with the younger crowd of marijuana users. The highly concentrated oil is nearly as dangerous to make as it is to smoke, raising serious concerns about the rising fad. For those concerned about the marijuana use of friends or loved ones, there are some facts about dabbing you need to know.

What are “Dabs”?
Dabs, also known as butane hash oil or BHO, are waxy concentrates created by extracting THC – the active ingredient in marijuana. Extraction is done using butane, which is a highly flammable gas. The extract left from the process is up to four times more potent than standard marijuana, producing a more powerful high with a very small amount of the substance.

Dabbing has actually been around for a number of decades, but only recently has it come into popularity with regular drug users. Now, those interested in dabbing can find information on social media and YouTube videos, presenting a serious danger for DIY dabbers that try to make the substance at home.

Dangerous Extraction
Because the process of extraction is done using highly flammable materials, there have been numerous reports of explosions and fires involving those that have tried to make the substance in their homes. In addition, the extraction process is far from an exact science, which leaves the user unsure of the additional ingredients that might make their way into the dabs. These substances might include dangerous chemicals and gases, including residual butane and benzene.

Powerful Drug
THC concentrations found in dabbing can be as much as 90 percent, while concentrations of THC in standard marijuana are closer to 10-15 percent. This potent mix has led to hallucinations, unconsciousness and hospital visits for some users. Because the high is so strong, most that begin dabbing will be unable to go back to herbal marijuana and get a satisfactory high. This may lead some dabbers to move to other types of drugs in an effort to mimic the effects.

There are also concerns that the potency of dabbing can lead to tolerance of the drug, which means more of the substance will be needed to achieve the same effects. Tolerance to drugs can also lead to abuse and dependency over time.

As concerns about dabbing continue to grow, legalization of marijuana in many states for both medicinal and recreational purposes only serves to feed the worry. If you are struggling with marijuana abuse of any kind, we can help. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665.

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The Link between Sleep Patterns and Substance Abuse

The link between sleep and substance abuse has been widely studied, particularly in regards to the sleep problems that can arise as a result of drug or alcohol abuse. However, recent studies have also shown a reverse relationship, suggesting poor sleep patterns can also help predict which teens may be drawn to substance use. As more studies show a compelling association between sleep and substance abuse, parents may be able to use this information to lower the risk of substance use by their teens through helping them form healthy sleep habits.

Sleep Patterns and Alcohol or Marijuana Use
Teens that tend to stay up later at night are also more likely to have used marijuana or alcohol within the past month, a new study from the Rand Corporation has found. Researchers asked more than 2,500 teens from 16 middle schools in Southern California about their total nightly sleep time, as well as their marijuana and alcohol use once they reached high school. All of the surveys were completed between May 2013 and April 2014.

“Our findings suggest that sleep issues are independently associated with alcohol and marijuana use for teens, not just a marker for other risk factors, such as depression,” Wendy Troxel, lead author for the study, was quoted as saying in a Rand Corporation press release. However, researchers cautioned that their findings did not determine a cause and effect, so it was unknown if sleep problems simply predict alcohol and marijuana use or actually lead to it.

Sleep Problems May Lead to Binge Drinking
The Rand Corporation study is not the first to show a compelling association between lack of sleep and drug and alcohol abuse. Earlier this year, researchers at Idaho State University studied more than 6,500 teenagers to determine a link between sleep and alcohol problems. Through interviews and questionnaires, the scientists found that sleep issues appeared to be a potential predictor of substance abuse.

Specified sleep problems encompassed difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, as well as sleeping too little. Specific drug and alcohol issues linked to sleep problems in this study included:

  • Getting drunk or high
  • Binge drinking
  • Driving under the influence
  • Risky sexual behavior regretted later
  • Use of illegal drugs

Although sleep may be an important factor in whether a teen might use or abuse substances, it is certainly not the only one. There are many circumstances that could play into whether an adolescent will choose to use drugs or alcohol. If you suspect your teen is abusing these substances, the professionals at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers can help. Contact us today at 866-889-3665.


4 Myths About Marijuana

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly half of all teenagers in the U.S. try marijuana before they graduate from high school. Marijuana use is becoming more prevalent and accepted, thanks to legalization of the substance in numerous states for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Unfortunately, wider acceptance has also fed some of the myths about the safety of this drug, leading to higher use among the younger crowd. We have some of the common myths circulating about marijuana and the facts that debunk these myths.

Marijuana is not a significant health risk.

This misconception may stem from the fact that a user cannot overdose and die from using too much pot. However, the long-term health ramifications of using this drug regularly include cognitive impairment and an increased risk of mental disorders and lung cancer. The drug is also associated with a higher incidence of risky sexual behavior, which can increase the user’s risk for sexually-transmitted diseases.

I cannot become “hooked” on marijuana.

It is true that marijuana in not as addictive as many other drugs circulating today. However, the THC in marijuana stimulates the release of dopamine by the brain, which leads to feelings of pleasure and euphoria. This process can lead to abuse and addiction, as evidenced by the fact that more teens enter treatment programs yearly with a diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other drugs combined, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Marijuana has medicinal benefits.

This misconception stems from the fact that marijuana has been legalized in 23 states and the District of Columbia for medical purposes. However, under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, marijuana is listed a Schedule I Controlled Substance, meaning it has no recognized medical value. On the other hand, synthetic THC has been approved by the FDA as a legal version of marijuana and has been available by prescription since 1985 in a drug known as Marinol.

If it’s legal, it must be okay.

The legalization of marijuana has made getting the truth out about the dangers of marijuana an uphill battle. People, especially young people, assume that if the drug is legal, it must be safe. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence to suggest otherwise, including long-term effects on the brain that could be permanent. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse warned in 2013 that regular use of marijuana could set a user on a “downward life trajectory” that includes a negative impact on both social and cognitive development.

Marijuana is a drug with the same risks and dangers as other drugs used on the street today. If your teen is struggling with marijuana dependence, we can help. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665 to learn about our treatment programs and get the help you need today.

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Is there Such a Thing as Marijuana Withdrawal?

Although the idea of marijuana addiction and withdrawal has been widely debated in the past, more and more scientific evidence is beginning to support the fact that cannabis is indeed an addictive substance. Those that use it habitually may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. By acknowledging that there is such a thing as marijuana withdrawal, we can better help users manage the withdrawal symptoms so they successfully adapt to life without marijuana.

Factors Influencing Marijuana Withdrawal
Not everyone will suffer symptoms of marijuana withdrawal when they quit using. Factors that impact your likelihood of withdrawal symptoms include:

When you started using pot – those that began using as teens are more likely to become addicted
Length of time you have been using – the longer the duration, the greater the potential for withdrawal symptoms
Frequency of use – Daily users are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms than those who only use occasionally

Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can be both physical and psychological. Physical withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Sweatiness and night sweats
  • Body shakes and trembling
  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches, some severe
  • Changes in appetite
  • Abdominal pain and nausea

Psychological symptoms were equally troublesome and may include the following:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Depression, mood swings and anxiety
  • General restlessness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Vivid dreams while asleep

Seeking Treatment
In 2012, researchers from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia looked at 49 men and women from Sydney that were regular marijuana users. They asked test subjects, who used pot at least five times a week, to refrain from using the substance for two weeks. Ten of the subjects relapsed during that time. Researchers discovered those subjects were more likely to experience impairment in their daily lives due to marijuana withdrawal symptoms.

This study illustrates the importance of addressing withdrawal symptoms in those that want to stop using marijuana for good. When those physical and psychological side effects are not properly managed in a supportive, professional environment, relapse is that much more likely. It can take up to 90 days for withdrawal symptoms to stop completely, which means ongoing support and treatment is necessary for some marijuana users.

At Visions, we understand the complications associated with marijuana withdrawal and we work with patients on both an inpatient and outpatient basis to help manage those symptoms. While there is no medication to help treat marijuana withdrawal symptoms at this time, therapy, sleep aids and motivational incentives have all proven effective in treating this addiction. To learn more, contact Visions at 866-889-3665.

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Guest Post: The Ins and Outs of Drug Testing

A drug testing program

Laboratory (Photo credit: tk-link)

can be an important part of a company, school or drug rehabilitation center’s policy. Some parents have even taken it upon themselves to initiate drug testing in their own homes in the interest of keeping their children drug free.

And while most drug testing programs use the urine drug testing method, there are other ways of testing for substance abuse. We will look at the three most common drug testing methods and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Instant drug tests and lab drug tests


All drug testing falls into one of these two categories.


Instant tests, as the name implies, can be done on the spot and give you instant results in just a few simple steps.


For laboratory testing, you of course have to go to a laboratory where the tests are performed with sophisticated equipment. Samples can be collected either at the laboratory or collected off site and taken to the lab for testing.


Drug testing programs in business or institutional environments will usually include a two step process that includes both instant and laboratory tests. An instant test will be performed initially and if that returns a positive result, a follow up test on the sample will be performed at a laboratory. These lab tests are important because instant test results aren’t admissible in court. If the test result is to be used for a legal matter, such as termination of employment, for example, the sample must be laboratory tested for confirmation purposes.


The obvious advantage of instant drug testing is that it gives you instant results. The instant drug testing kits are also inexpensive compared to booking laboratory time for drug testing. With many kits, it’s also possible to test for multiple drugs at the same time. Some of them can even test for over a dozen drugs that include all the common street drugs, plus prescription drugs.


As for disadvantages, aside from the fact that the results are not admissible in court, another knock on instant drug tests is that they do give the occasional false positive reading. Even worse, they also give the occasional false negative reading.


On the laboratory side, the advantages are that the testing is handled by professionals and the results can be used in court, as they confirm the presence of drugs. The expense, plus the time it takes to get results, which ranges from hours to weeks, are disadvantages to laboratory testing.


By combining instant drug testing and laboratory testing, costs can be kept down by primarily using the instant tests and only sending the samples that give a positive result away for laboratory confirmation.


Different Types of drug testing


Although you may occasionally see blood and sweat referenced in terms of drug testing, and both those bodily fluids can be used, the three most common ways of drug testing are by using samples of urine, saliva or hair.


It is possible to use an instant testing kit when using urine or saliva to drug test. With these kits, you can collect a sample anywhere (you’ll need a private place for urine, obviously) and test the substances right on the spot. Or, you can collect the samples and have them sent away to a laboratory for testing.


Hair testing cannot be done instantly. Hair samples can be collected any place, but the actual testing will have to be done at a laboratory.




As far as the most common way to drug test, urine reigns supreme. It’s used in the majority of employment testing, pre-employment screening, military and sports drug testing.


Depending on the type of drug and other factors like a person’s body composition, urine tests can detect drugs in a person’s system from a few hours after they’ve ingested them until about a week afterward, maybe a bit longer.


The instant urine drug tests require a person to give a sample of a certain size and then seeing how that urine reacts with specific chemicals meant to detect drug metabolites.


Tests come in different formats like testing strips, where you dip the strip into the urine, or testing cassettes where you have to transfer some of the urine onto the cassette. A popular instant urine test for obvious reasons is the all-on-one cups where you get the sample donor to fill a cup and you put a lid on the cup and push a button to enact the test, never needing to actually interact with the liquid.


Laboratory urine tests will involve doing an instant drug test (known as immunoassay tests) and if the results are positive, running a more sophisticated (and expensive) test that usually involve gas chromatography–mass spectrometry or a similar type of test.


Obviously the advantages are that this type of testing can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively, plus, because it’s the most common type of drug testing, most people are familiar with it already.


The disadvantages of urine testing are that the sample collection can’t quite be done anywhere. The collection process is also a bit invasive. In some organizations like the military, sample collection must be watched.


And urine tests can be cheated. Some common forms of cheating include:


  • swapping in someone else’s clean urine,
  • drinking excessive amounts of water or other liquids to dilute the sample, and
  • adding a foreign substance (salt, vinegar, bleach etc.) to the sample.


Fortunately, these types of cheating can be easily thwarted. Temperature strips can detect when urine isn’t body temperature, which a fresh sample would be. Also, observation of the sample collection prevents swapping. Many tests can detect watered down samples and properly trained testing technicians will be able to spot a diluted sample, not to mention that most drugs aren’t water soluble so this won’t help people cheat in a lot of cases anyway. Many modern instant tests are also equipped to detect adulterated samples, as well as the aforementioned properly trained drug testing technicians. Laboratories will have safeguards in place to detect cheating.




Often referred to as oral fluid tests, they involve taking a swab of fluid from the mouth of the sample donor. The results are available instantly and these tests can detect drug use from about an hour after usage to a few days after usage depending on the type of drug.


The relatively short period of detection is one of their disadvantages.


However, a clear advantage is that the collection process for saliva testing can be done anywhere and can be observed without privacy concerns.


As far as cheating, it has been noted that gum and cigarettes can interfere with the results of these tests, so precautions have to be taken to ensure no gum is chewed or cigarettes smoked immediately prior to the test.




Hair testing involves cutting several dozen strands of hair from a person’s head or body and sending them to a laboratory for testing (the sample collection can also be done in some labs). Short hair is perfectly fine to use and, as mentioned, body hair can also be used. And while cutting off a person’s hair is obviously somewhat invasive, the hair is cut from the back of the head from a few different spots so as to not be obvious.


In the lab, the hair will be liquified and then split into its various components to check for drug metabolites. A huge advantage for hair testing is that it can check for drug use as far back as three months prior to the date of the test. And, not only can it detect the type of drug used, but also how frequently it was used.


Another huge advantage is that it is impossible to cheat. The internet is full of “advice” for people on how to cheat a hair drug test, but no shampoo, dye or bleach can change the molecular makeup of the hair, which is what the tests look at.


However, aside from the aforementioned invasiveness, hair testing has other disadvantages. It’s more expensive than either urine or saliva testing, there is no instant option and drug metabolites won’t show up in hair until about a week after usage. So, for example, if a person used cocaine on Tuesday and a hair sample was taken from them the following Thursday, the cocaine usage from two days beforehand would not be detected.


Whether used in a professional environment or in the home, drug testing can help keep employees, students, children, athletes and others free from the harmful effects of drugs. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for any given situation will depend on cost and other factors.


About Our Guest Blogger: Lena Butler

Lena Butler is a health blogger and customer service representative for TestCountry, a San Diego based point of service diagnostic test service provider that offers a wide range of laboratory and instant drug and general health testing kits. You can follow Test Country on Twitter and on Facebook. Follow Lena on Twitter as well!