Marijuana is addictive. While approximately 9 percent of users overall become addicted to marijuana, about 17 percent of those who start during adolescence and 25-50 percent of daily users become addicted. Thus, many of the nearly 6.5 percent of high school seniors who report smoking marijuana daily or almost daily are well on their way to addiction, if not already addicted.13 In fact, between 70-72% of 12-17 year olds who enter drug treatment programs, do so primarily because of marijuana addiction.13,17
Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report various withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to remain abstinent. These withdrawal symptoms can begin within the first 24 hours following cessation, peak at two to three days, and subside within one or two weeks follow drug cessation. Behavioral interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational incentives (i.e., providing vouchers for goods or services to patients who remain abstinent) have proven to be effective in treating marijuana addiction.18
Although no medications are currently available, recent discoveries about the workings of the endocannabinoid system offer promise for the development of medications to ease withdrawal, block the intoxicating effects of marijuana, and prevent relapse.19
Is Marijuana a Gateway Leading to the Abuse of Other Illicit Drugs?
An additional danger associated with marijuana use observed in adolescents is a sequential pattern of involvement in other legal and illegal drugs. Marijuana is frequently a stepping stone that bridges the gap between cigarette and alcohol use and the use of other more powerful and dangerous substances like cocaine and heroin. This stage-like progression of substance abuse, known as the gateway phenomenon,
is common among youth from all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds.18 Additionally, marijuana is often intentionally used with other substances, including alcohol or crack cocaine, to magnify its effects. Phencyclidine (PCP), formaldehyde, crack cocaine, and codeine cough syrup are also often mixed with marijuana without the user’s knowledge.20
From The American College of Pediatricians
The American College of Pediatricians is a national medical association of licensed physicians and healthcare professionals who specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. The mission of the College is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and well-being.
A PDF copy of this statement is available here: Marijuana Use: Detrimental to Youth
For more information, visit The Health Effects of Marijuana Use page on this website.