“He’s Only Smoking Marijuana—He Doesn’t Need Rehab, Does He?”

young man rolling a joint

For those who have believed the ads and lobbying of marijuana proponents, it may be hard to grasp that a person “just smoking marijuana” could need rehab. But it is absolutely true, even if that person never progresses to the use of other drugs.

There is plenty of evidence that heavy marijuana use can take over a person’s life and replace ability and productivity with preoccupation with getting and using pot. If they know what to look for, families can identify many clear signs of damage that may be suffered by a person who uses this drug daily or nearly daily.

Even when the signs of damage are unmistakable, the heavy pot user may find himself unable to break free from the intoxicating effects of this drug. That’s when the need for rehab exists to help this person return to a productive, enjoyable life once again. As families note these dramatic changes, that’s when they are likely to start checking out rehab centers for their loved one.

Signs that May Cause Families to Look for Rehab

1. Repeated trips to the Emergency Room

Panic attacks, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, depersonalization (losing his grasp of who he is) and excessive vomiting are sending marijuana users to the ER. Even after the first trip, the family may start asking questions.

2. Abandonment of cherished goals 

The family sees the individual abandon activities or plans that once meant the world to him. Maybe he planned to travel across Europe or get a Bachelor’s Degree or start a dog-walking business. After heavy use of marijuana, all those dreams now look uninteresting. This change will alert the attentive family.

3. Focusing on drug use over other parts of life 

When drug use becomes a person’s primary focus in life, his relationships, work, school and morality are going to suffer. If the person is living at home or is accessible to family, this change will be fairly obvious.

4. Suicidality

A daily marijuana user who starts this habit early is seven times more likely to commit suicide. There were “notable effects” at lower uses of this drug as well. Does the person say anything to his family about feeling hopeless or that he thinks death is acceptable? This is definitely something that would send families looking for rehabilitation.

5. Repeated bad decisions 

A study several years ago found that marijuana users didn’t learn well from experience and were more unconcerned about consequences. They were, therefore, less able to control their impulses which understandably could lead to many bad choices.

6. Reduced memory, reduced ability to absorb academic studies or grasp information

The family may notice the person is vague about what he remembers or struggles with study that used to be simple. This is a clear sign that the person needs help to regain his native abilities.

And one more. 

A change not visible by anyone but a marijuana user’s doctor is changes to the pot smoker’s brain. A study recently published to the Journal of Neuroscience found that there were abnormal changes in size and density in four different parts of the brain among marijuana users. Those who did not smoke had no such changes. Families may not be able to see alterations in a brain, but they can see the changes in the individual’s life.

Of course, some people do see the changes in themselves and they don’t like it. Some will be able to quit and get their lives on track and others will not be able to resist the compulsion to keep using the drug. Again, that’s where rehab comes in.

More Potency, More Rehab Admissions

As the marijuana industry matures, the potency of the drug has skyrocketed. In the 1970s, potency ran around 5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in the plants being sold. In medical and recreational marijuana stores, potency as high as 28% are available. As potency rise, admissions to rehab also rise, far faster than the number of users. The head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse attributes the rise in admissions to the greater addictiveness of this potent marijuana.

If you are seeking recovery for a loved one addicted to marijuana, call us today. Narconon has been helping the addicted recover their productivity and enjoyment of sobriety for fifty years.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.