Home Drug Info Marijuana
Share this page: Print this page:


Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana, also known as pot or weed, is the most common illicit drug used in the United States. While many believe it is not addictive, research shows that about one in six people who start using marijuana in their teens, and 25 to 50 percent of those who use it every day, become addicted. Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to abstain.

25 to 50 percent of people who smoke marijuana every day become addicted.

Pot is a problem for some of the adults and almost all the adolescents we treat. For these clients, marijuana use has disrupted their lives and families and affected their motivation, memory, schoolwork or careers. It can also damage the heart and lungs, increase the incidence of anxiety and depression, and trigger psychotic episodes.

Special Problems for Teens

Marijuana impairs learning, judgment, and memory, all vital attributes for adolescents. It can do lasting harm to the still-developing adolescent brain, disrupting normal development of the white matter that brain cells need to communicate with each other, thus hampering the user’s ability to reason. Most recently, researchers have found marijuana responsible for long-term changes in “working memory,” the brain structures critical to the ready recall of basic information, like telephone numbers, and to the solutions of everyday problems.

It is likely that most teens will try smoking marijuana at some point in their adolescent years. If they are cautious and marijuana use does not become habitual, parents are unlikely to become aware of it.

Signs that Someone Needs Treatment for Marijuana Use

Here are questions to ask if you’re concerned that someone in your life—teen or adult—may have a problem with marijuana.

Has marijuana use affected their motivation, memory, ability to concentrate, or their school or work performance?

Have they lost interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy?

Have other people noticed changes in their behavior?

Do you feel like their marijuana use might be interfering with their relationships?

Have they ever wanted to quit but couldn’t, or been too afraid to try?

Have they ever experienced a decline in quality of life related to their marijuana use?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” whomever you’re concerned about may have a problem; if the answer to more than one question is “yes,” it’s highly likely that a problem exists.


Individual treatment plans for clients address not just their drug involvement but the needs of the whole person. Marijuana is the drug of choice for most teens in treatment at Phoenix House. Treatment programs for teens provide individual, group, and family counseling and employ a broad range of research-proven clinical practices.

Clinical services for teen marijuana users focus on reinforcing motivation and the desire to change, controlling drug cravings, and learning new ways of thinking, solving problems, and coping with difficult situations. Family involvement is a key dimension of treatment, dealing with critical family issues and problem behaviors, and enabling the family to give effective support to children in recovery.

Our programs for adults also include both residential and outpatient options. Individual and group therapy focus on addressing the underlying causes of the client’s drug use as well as developing new, positive patterns of behavior. Family support is often part of treatment.


“Now I don’t smoke to ignore my problems—I stand up and face them.”

Autumn, Phoenix House Alum

Read my story

We Can Help

If you are concerned about your loved one’s marijuana use or your own, our compassionate, qualified staff can provide a confidential evaluation to help you determine if marijuana use is a problem, and what the best course of action would be for your loved one’s or your individual needs. We offer safe, affordable treatment in a variety of locations. Call us anytime: we are here to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.