Marijuana is quickly becoming the drug of choice for young adults and professionals alike. From comical brand puns to carnival-like flavors to the medicinal use of marijuana, what was once a shunned illicit drug is almost as popular as the Kardashians. Access to marijuana comes easily, too—as do the addictive tendencies.
Like other drugs, there is the main ingredient, in the case of marijuana, THC, which is the specific chemical responsible for getting users “high.” No matter how you may choose to ingest THC, it’s passed into the bloodstream and impacts everything from cognitive function to changes in mood.
Marijuana addiction is characterized by the problematic use of this substance. Those who are addicted may find they use marijuana more frequently over time and in larger amounts. It may also manifest as neglected responsibilities in other areas of life, in favor of using the drug instead. Marijuana addiction may lead to other forms of substance use and abuse, the reason it’s commonly called a gateway drug. Addiction can manifest as psychological and/or physiological dependence on the substance.
Recovery at the Crossroads wants you to understand how addictive marijuana can be.
The idea that marijuana can be addictive is something many people are just beginning to accept, which means more users may come to realize they need help breaking their addictions to the substance. Moreover, marijuana addiction can exacerbate other substance use disorders, such as alcoholism. This is one of the reasons marijuana has been touted as the “new alcohol.” It’s entirely possible to struggle with addiction to a substance that’s been made legal in some areas and is readily available.
When asking, “Is marijuana the new alcohol?”, it is important to consider the extent to which marijuana use impacts your daily life. Both alcohol and marijuana can have negative impacts on your physical and mental health. Moreover, quitting may not be as easy as you think. A person can be addicted to both substances and require help dealing with the addiction. Consider five important reasons why marijuana is the new alcohol.
1. Marijuana Is Legal in New Jersey
The movement to legalize marijuana in New Jersey is the first reason it’s considered the new alcohol. The legalization process means marijuana is easier to obtain than ever. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, so does the need for cannabis consumers. Just like with alcoholic beverages, the more available marijuana is, the more likely people will find reasons to use it. When it comes to marijuana use, New Jersey is already trending in the wrong direction.
In 2020 and 2021, the New Jersey Legislature passed a series of laws legalizing and decriminalizing recreational marijuana usage. These included S.21/A.21, A.1897/4269 and A.5342. Because of the legalization and decriminalization of recreational marijuana, it’s prudent to assess where the state currently stands on a number of factors related to marijuana usage.
Before this industry takes hold in New Jersey, it’s worthwhile to note that studies show New Jersey marijuana use is slightly lower than usage across the U.S.—among both men (45.2% in New Jersey and 48.6% in the U.S.) and women (35.8% in New Jersey and 39.6% in the U.S.).
However, as marijuana use increases, some of the negative impacts of drug abuse centered on marijuana are also increasing. Despite a rise in arrests for younger adults (ages 18-20), the number of older adults (26-50) admitted to treatment facilities for marijuana use increased, while the number of those ages 12-25 decreased from 2015-2018.
At the county level in New Jersey, Cumberland, Camden, Salem, Cape May, Atlantic and Gloucester counties had dramatic increases in deaths due to drug overdoses between 2016 and 2021. With Recovery at the Crossroads centrally located around these counties, we are actively working to offer treatment for addiction before these statistics hit home.
Marijuana admissions by gender show female admissions to recovery and treatment facilities have risen, while the rate is dropping for males in New Jersey. The latest numbers outline that females represented 28.8%, from 25% in 2018, of those admitted into recovery and treatment facilities in New Jersey for marijuana abuse and males represented 71.2% of those admitted. This is where our Women-Focused Addiction Treatment programs could be of great service.
Even though marijuana is legal in New Jersey, the stats speak to how addictive it can become.
2. Marijuana Is Addictive Despite Its Legality
Some of the negative impacts of using marijuana include negative impacts on health, diminished cognitive function, lack of motivation and inability to perform at work or school.
One of the common misconceptions about marijuana use is that it’s not addictive. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost 10% of all users become addicted. This increases the younger in age a person starts smoking marijuana. Those who do struggle with addiction may find they’re unable to stop smoking when they want to. They may also experience feelings of withdrawal, including sleeplessness, irritability, decreased appetite, anxiety and cravings to use the drug.
If you suffer from a traumatic event or are going through a depressive episode, marijuana use generally increases, like it is as if you were binge-drinking alcohol. Marijuana users in these mental states may soon begin to wholly depend on the effects of THC on the body, which then ties itself to addiction. If you or a loved one needs help for any addiction, please reach out to Recovery at the Crossroads today.
3. Marijuana Is Touted as a ‘Safer’ Alternative to Alcohol and Opioids
One of the common narratives that people spread about marijuana use is that it’s a safer alternative to both alcohol and opioids. However, marijuana compared to other substances is not necessarily a healthy comparison to make. The truth is that consuming marijuana in any form has its own set of problems. It can still be a dangerous substance when it’s abused, which does happen. Comparing which is the more dangerous substance between the alcohol industry and marijuana use has no positive outcome. Alcohol consumption is bad when people abuse it, and the same applies to marijuana.
This means there’s no safer option in the way a person chooses to become inebriated. When they do it through drinking alcohol excessively, sometimes known as binge drinking, it becomes unsafe. The same applies to consuming marijuana, despite its legality in the Garden State.
4. Marijuana Can Now Be Found in Alcohol
Another reason marijuana has become the new alcohol is that the two are now being combined. Drinkable weed is a new trend in the craft beer industry, and cannabis companies are only getting started on this marriage of convenience and profit. While smoked marijuana presents its own set of issues, reining in marijuana use will become much harder if people can simply drink it at their local bar.
5. COVID-19 Contributed To the Desire to Escape
Yet another reason why marijuana has become the new alcohol is that during the pandemic, people turned to the substance as a way to escape. For many people dealing with the rigors of lockdowns and anxiety, making the switch from alcohol use to cannabis products was a no-brainer. This was despite the fact that it would have been far more beneficial to many people’s mental health to instead replace alcohol with healthier habits that perpetuated positive health effects.
Substance use, even so-called recreational use, is never a substitute for healthy habits. Daily marijuana use increasing over the pandemic to avoid drinking has resulted in a marked increase in those seeking treatment for substance abuse issues.
Treating Marijuana Addiction
Treatment admission rates indicate that heroin, alcohol and marijuana represented the three main substances for which people were admitted into treatment facilities in the months following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting treatment is imperative to bringing a marijuana addiction under control. Options include dual diagnosis behavioral therapy, which will help to reroute the way you engage in certain coping mechanisms that may lead you to abuse marijuana.
Medication-assisted treatment is another option. Since marijuana withdrawal does come with side effects that can be physically unpleasant, medication-assisted treatment can help reduce the amount of marijuana you may be using while you work on the other components of treatment.
Finally, some people opt for outpatient drug rehab in dealing with substance abuse. For those who may not have obstacles in their home environment, this is an ideal option to help address prevention and ways to minimize and/or stop consumption entirely.
No matter the cause of addiction, the effects can be overwhelming. Recovery at the Crossroads is here to help. We provide effective outpatient addiction treatment to residents across the great state of New Jersey and the following localities of Mount Laurel Township, Monroe Township, Camden, Cherry Hill Township, Deptford Township, Wenonah, Pine Hill, Clementon, Lindenwold, Somerdale and Woodbury. Call today or fill out our admission form—we are here to help you!
By Recovery at the Crossroads Staff