A recent article in The Denver Post tells the story of teenager Quintin Pohl, who after smoking pot in middle school became addicted to marijuana. “I was heartless, emotionless,” he told the reporters. “I was just kind of a blob taking up space. I was baked 24/7.” And, he said, he didn’t see it coming.
Pohl admitted to smoking one to two ounces of weed per week and describes his first week at rehab as “pure misery,” with insomnia, cold sweats and lots of emotions, including anger. “And then the sun hit my face one morning, and it felt great,” he said. “Things tasted good, smelled better, everything was just enhanced.”
For those of us in the field of addiction recovery this story is all-too-familiar and there’s no need to convince us that an addiction to marijuana can and does happen. Studies show that an estimated 9 percent of all users, and roughly 17 percent of those who start using in adolescence, become addicted. This is partly because the developing brain is more vulnerable to the dangerous effects of marijuana.
Yet despite these facts, a large part of the population is still unconvinced that pot is dangerous and addictive. “There should be no controversy about the existence of marijuana addiction,” David Smith, a physician who has been treating addiction since he opened a free clinic in San Francisco’s drug-drenched Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the 1960s, told The Denver Post. “We see it every day. The controversy should be why it appears to be affecting more people.”
While the percentage of people addicted to marijuana has remained relatively stable, some studies show a rise in marijuana dependency, which means individuals experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping the drug. And many addiction professionals are seeing a higher demand for help among adolescents.
One possible explanation: The potency of today’s pot is causing a higher prevalence of problematic marijuana use, said Smith. “Back in the day when kids were sitting around smoking a joint, the THC levels found in marijuana averaged from 2 to 4 percent,” he said. Today, the average potency is 20 percent, with some strains exceeding 30 percent.
According to Ray Estefania of FRS, “we are seeing more and more young people who are using very potent strains of marijuana and also eventually moving on to the oil form, which is highly concentrated and much more addictive. These kids can easily and quickly become dependent on marijuana and can suffer other adverse consequences like psychiatric disturbances and significant impairment in cognitive function, which affects their ability to perform in school. Unfortunately, many parents don’t recognize the dangers and are often slow to intervene when their child is using marijuana.”
Programs for At-Risk Youth
At Family Recovery Specialists, we have vast experience working with adolescents and young adults who are misusing marijuana and may not recognize it as a problem. We are uniquely qualified to help a person abusing drugs as well as those with any level of a substance use disorder. To learn more about how we can give you or someone you love the best chance of securing a life free from marijuana, call us today: 305-595-7378.