Renaissance Ranch

Dangers of Recreational Marijuana Use and When to Seek Treatment

Mar 5, 2024

Over the last several years, significant efforts have been made to legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana use across the United States. Though there can be medical benefits to using marijuana, for example, in the treatment of chronic pain, recreational marijuana use is not without its risks. Contrary to what some may believe, marijuana is psychologically addictive, which can trigger harmful emotional withdrawal symptoms that perpetuate continued use. Thus, understanding the dangers of recreational marijuana use is essential to preventing abuse and addiction, as well as knowing when to seek treatment. 

At Renaissance Ranch, we recognize that the increasing availability and regularity of recreational marijuana use calls for deeper education about the harms and dangers that can result from such use. There is no question that the use of any substance, in any quantity, can trigger lasting consequences for an individual’s overall wellness, let alone increase the risk of developing substance use disorder (SUD). Fortunately, our treatment program can help individuals establish recovery from recreational marijuana use by developing healthier habits and lifestyles. 

Understanding Recreational Marijuana Use

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains:

Marijuana—also known as cannabis, weed, pot, or dope—refers to the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant… These compounds include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is impairing, and cannabidiol (CBD), which is not impairing–meaning it does not cause a “high.”

Marijuana has become a highly popularized substance that is used in a variety of ways to promote relaxation and calmness. Most often, marijuana is smoked in a hand-rolled cigarette, pipe, or bong. It can also be mixed into various foods, referred to as edibles. Marijuana is also vaporized from liquid marijuana extracts, making its use more discreet yet potent. 

Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights, “According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cannabis (marijuana) is one of the most used drugs in the United States, and its use is widespread among young people. In 2021, 35.4% of young adults aged 18 to 25 (11.8 million people) reported using marijuana in the past year.” 

Marijuana is used for both medical and non-medical adult use; however, this does not mean that recreational marijuana use is safe. Understanding the short-term and long-term effects of marijuana on the brain and body can help individuals better recognize the dangers of recreational marijuana use. 

Short-Term Effects

When a person uses marijuana, THC is passed from the lungs (or stomach) into the bloodstream, which is then carried from the bloodstream to the brain and other parts of the body. Short-term effects may begin to kick in as quickly as 30 seconds to one minute when smoked or 30 minutes to an hour when eaten. As a result, users may experience:

  • Altered sense of time
  • Impaired memory
  • Alterations in mood
  • An inability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Altered senses
  • Paranoia and anxiety

Moreover, when taken in high doses, individuals are also subject to experiencing:

  • Hallucinations: False sensory perceptions (seeing or hearing something that is not really there)
  • Delusions: False beliefs that one thinks actually exist
  • Psychosis: Not knowing what is real (typically characterized by hallucinations and delusions)

Despite what some individuals may believe, engaging in recreational marijuana use even one time can trigger harmful consequences to one’s health and well-being. For example, as NIDA highlights, “Marijuana raises heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect may increase the chance of heart attack.” Recreational marijuana use also affects brain development. Further, it can also decrease coordination and reaction time, which can be especially problematic in high-risk situations, such as driving under the influence. 

Long-Term Effects

One of the most harmful effects of ongoing recreational marijuana use is the increased risk of addiction. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains, “Approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. When they start before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to 1 in 6.” Further, continued use can make individuals vulnerable to experiencing the following long-term effects:

  • Impaired brain health: Triggering permanent IQ loss, as well as problems with attention, memory, and learning
  • Worsened mental health: Increasing the risk of developing depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and more
  • Co-occurring disorders: Especially when engaging in recreational marijuana use in an attempt to self-medicate mental health symptoms 
  • Organ damage: Triggering lasting complications to the cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems
  • Impaired immune system: Informing more frequent illness and a higher risk of infection
  • Financial problems: To finance psychological dependency or addiction

Furthermore, SAMHSA also states, “Research shows that people who use marijuana are more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes, lower career achievement, and reduced life satisfaction.”

Treatment for Recreational Marijuana Use at Renaissance Ranch

Ceasing recreational marijuana use can be challenging, especially if marijuana has become a part of one’s daily life. Yet, establishing sobriety is the only way to truly protect oneself from experiencing the dangerous effects of marijuana use, as well as developing marijuana use disorder

According to the CDC, some specific warning signs and symptoms that indicate a need for treatment from recreational marijuana use include, but are not limited to:

  • Attempting to quit using marijuana use, yet being unsuccessful
  • Continuing to engage in recreational marijuana use despite problems it is causing to interpersonal relationships, career, or daily life
  • Craving marijuana
  • Using marijuana in high-risk situations, such as operating a vehicle
  • Needing to use marijuana in greater quantities to achieve the desired high

Meanwhile, at Renaissance Ranch, we offer treatment for marijuana use and abuse, alongside treatment for all types of addiction and SUD, for adult men. Using a 12-Step approach and many different treatment programs, we help our clients establish sobriety from dangerous substance-using behaviors to promote lasting healing and wellness. 

As the availability of and access to marijuana continues to grow, it is more important than ever to understand the dangers of engaging in recreational marijuana use. Using marijuana even one time can increase your risk of health problems, from impaired breathing to an increased risk of a heart attack. Meanwhile, the long-term effects of recreational marijuana use include impaired brain health, organ damage, worsened mental health, interpersonal problems, and an increased risk of marijuana use disorder and other co-occurring disorders. Fortunately, treatment is available and recovery is possible. At Renaissance Ranch, we offer a full continuum of care for substance abuse and mental health treatment. Learn more by calling (801) 308-8898 today.