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Marijuana Use Disorder: Teen Version



  • Marijuana use disorder is a pattern of using marijuana that leads to serious personal, family, work, and physical and mental health problems. Recreational marijuana is illegal in some states. Medical marijuana is legal in many states in the US.
  • Marijuana use disorder can be treated. For any treatment to be successful, you must want to stop using marijuana. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine that will help you get through withdrawal symptoms. Support groups and therapy may be helpful.
  • The best way to help yourself is to see your healthcare provider and make plans to stop using marijuana.


What is marijuana use disorder?

Marijuana is made from a plant called cannabis. It may be smoked or eaten. Hashish is a different form of marijuana, which is made by boiling down the plant until it is like tar. Spice, or K2, is an incense made from herbs that are sprayed with synthetic chemicals such as THC, which is the same chemical found in marijuana.

Recreational marijuana is legal in some states. Medical marijuana is legal in many states in the US. Check your state’s laws. Before you may legally purchase or use medical marijuana, most states require that you:

  • Have certain diagnosed conditions and a recommendation from a licensed physician.
  • Register or get a card from the state.

Medical marijuana may be used to decrease nausea, reduce pain and inflammation, control seizures, or help with other health problems. You may be abusing medical marijuana if you:

  • Take it for reasons other than why it was prescribed
  • Take more than the prescribed dose
  • Continue to use it when you no longer have a need

Marijuana use disorder is a pattern of using marijuana that leads to serious personal, family, work, school, and physical and mental health problems. The more these statements apply to you, the more severe your marijuana use disorder is.

  1. You use more or use marijuana for longer than you planned.
  2. You want to cut down or quit but are not able to do so.
  3. You spend a lot of time and energy getting marijuana, using marijuana, and getting over the effects.
  4. You crave marijuana so much that you have trouble thinking about anything else.
  5. You have problems at work or school or stop taking care of people who depend on you.
  6. You have relationship problems because you don’t keep your promises, or you argue or get violent with other people.
  7. You stop doing things that used to matter to you, such as sports, hobbies, or spending time with family members and friends, because of your marijuana use.
  8. You use marijuana even when it is dangerous such as while driving or operating machinery.
  9. You keep using marijuana even though you know that it is hurting your physical or mental health.
  10. You need to use more marijuana or use it more often to get the same effects. This is called tolerance.
  11. You have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using.

Marijuana use disorder may also be called drug or substance dependence or addiction.

What is the cause?

Marijuana changes the way your body and brain work. When you use a lot of marijuana, your brain starts to get used to it. As a result, you think about marijuana all the time, you don't feel good unless you use marijuana, and you may act different when you use it. When you stop using marijuana suddenly, the balance of chemicals in your brain changes which causes the symptoms of withdrawal.

You have a higher risk of becoming dependent on drugs if you:

  • Have a family history of drug or alcohol use disorders
  • Have used alcohol or drugs in the past
  • Are easily frustrated, have trouble dealing with stress, or feel as if you aren’t good enough
  • Are regularly around people who use alcohol or drugs
  • Have a mental health problem
  • Have constant pain

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of marijuana use disorder depend on how much and how often you use the drug. The symptoms can be mild to severe such as:

  • Having belly pain, nausea, or increased appetite
  • Having trouble thinking, learning, or remembering
  • Feeling sleepy and low energy
  • Loss of control over movements
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling something that is not there
  • Thinking that others are out to get you when they are not

You may also have symptoms of new or worse health problems caused by marijuana use such as heart or lung problems.

The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can be mild to severe. You may have some of these symptoms when you stop using marijuana:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, and irritable
  • Losing your appetite
  • Feeling depressed
  • Cravings for marijuana
  • Having trouble sleeping

Smoking marijuana while you are pregnant can harm your baby. Your baby may not grow normally. Your child can have more behavioral problems and problems with language, attention, and memory.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how much and how often you use marijuana. Be honest about your drug use. Your provider needs this information to give you the right treatment. Your provider will also ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have blood or urine tests.

How is it treated?

Marijuana use disorder can be treated. For any treatment to be successful, you must want to stop using marijuana. Do not try to use alcohol and other drugs to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help you get through withdrawal.

If you are using or dependent on marijuana and want to quit, get help.

Support groups and therapy may be helpful. Kinds of therapy may include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps you look at your thoughts, beliefs, and actions, and understand what cause problems for you. You can learn what triggers your use of substances, how to cope with triggers and cravings, and ways to avoid relapse.
  • Family therapy. Often people with substance use disorders don’t realize they have a problem or aren’t ready to accept treatment. This leaves loved ones frustrated and confused. Family therapy treats all members of the family rather than working with one person alone. It helps the whole family understand each other better and make changes.
  • Substance use disorder treatment programs. Your healthcare providers and counselors will work with you to develop a treatment program. You may be able to go to therapy a few times a week. Or you may need treatment in a hospital or rehab center. You may need to stay there for several weeks, or you may be able to go to a clinic or hospital each day.

Medicine is not used to treat this disorder but may be prescribed if you have anxiety or depression. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine.

Recovery is a long-term process. Many people with substance use disorders try to quit more than once before they finally succeed. Don't give up. You can quit and quit for good. Get help and try again. Follow-up treatment is important so that you don’t go back to using marijuana.

If you have overdosed or are having severe withdrawal symptoms, you will need to be treated in a hospital. You will also be treated for any health problems such as a heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening problems.

How can I take care of myself?

The best way to help yourself is to see your healthcare provider and make plans to stop using marijuana. If you are already seeing a healthcare provider, it is important to take the full course of treatment he or she prescribes.

  • Get support. Talk with your school counselor. A counselor can help you sort through your issues and refer you to substance use programs. Your school may also have drug counseling classes.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at school and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax. For example, take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Limit caffeine. If you smoke or use e-cigarettes, try to quit. Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Stay physically active as advised by your provider.
  • Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the prescription and nonprescription medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and supplements you take.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.

People and resources in your community that can help you include your healthcare providers, therapists, support groups, mental health centers, and alcohol or substance use disorder treatment programs.

For more information, contact:

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2022-02-23
Last reviewed: 2021-05-26
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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