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signs someone is high on weed

How Do You Know If Someone Is Addicted to Weed?

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If your friend smokes weed and you are concerned that it is a problem, talk to them about it. A clear sign that recreational substances, such as alcohol or marijuana, have become an addiction is when family life, daily activities, and ability to work is impeded, and/or they can’t stop using the substance even though they want to quit.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana addiction is uncommon and can only be diagnosed in severe cases. Only a small percentage of users will develop what is known as a marijuana use disorder. The number rises significantly for those who started using weed in their teens, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).   If your friend uses pot occasionally, they likely do not have an addiction to marijuana.

Marijuana Use Disorder

Rather than use the term “addiction,” health professionals prefer the term “marijuana use disorder.” The NIDA estimates that about 30% of marijuana users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder.  

Marijuana Dependence

If your friend frequently uses marijuana and experiences withdrawal symptoms upon stopping the drug, they may be considered to have marijuana dependence. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are typically mild, peak within the first week after quitting, and may last up to two weeks. Symptoms include:  

  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness​

Marijuana Effects on the Adolescent Brain

Research has examined how marijuana affects teens. Some studies suggest that teenagers who use marijuana frequently may experience short-term effects such as problems with memory, learning, coordination, and judgment.  

There are also long-term effects. Some studies suggest an association between regular marijuana use in teens and “altered connectivity and reduced volume of specific brain regions.”     But other studies “have not found significant structural differences between the brains of users and non-users.”  

A large cohort study followed nearly 4,000 young adults over a 25-year period into mid-adulthood. It found that although cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana is associated with lower verbal memory test scores, exposure did not affect other cognitive abilities like processing speed or executive function.  

Studies have found that frequent use of marijuana as a teenager can be associated with an average IQ loss of eight points that were not recoverable after quitting. However, the same use in adults showed no reduction in IQ. The research data suggests marijuana’s strongest long-term impact is on young users whose brains are still developing.  

Marijuana As a Gateway Drug

Marijuana is not generally considered a “gateway drug” because the majority of weed users do not go on to use harder, addictive substances, including cocaine and heroin. Social environment might be a more critical factor in determining someone’s risk for trying harder drugs.  

If someone is more vulnerable to getting involved with addictive substances, they are more likely to start with substances that are more readily available, such as alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana. People who have social interactions with other substance users are more likely to try other drugs.  

If your friend uses weed and it does not interfere with work, family life or daily activities, it is likely that your friend does not have an addiction.

How to Tell If Your Teen Is Smoking Pot

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the host of the Mentally Strong People podcast.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drug among teenagers.   Yet, many teens don’t even consider it to be a drug. Changes in laws regarding medicinal marijuana and recreational use causes many teens to doubt the dangers of marijuana use.

A 2018 survey of 12th-grade students found that just over 22% of teens said they had smoked marijuana within the past month.   Teens continue to report that marijuana is easily accessible and very affordable.

Make sure you know the warning signs that could indicate your teen is using marijuana.

What Marijuana Looks Like

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Marijuana resembles tobacco but can take on several forms. It can be green and brown or grayish in color. It includes the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the cannabis plant.  

It may be shredded or crumbled, which is how it looks when it is smoked.

Sometimes teens will create a blunt out of a hollowed-out cigar filled with marijuana.

Teens crumble marijuana and roll it into a cigarette or use a pipe or bong to smoke. Sometimes teens place marijuana in food, like brownies, or make it into a tea.

Signs Your Teen Is High

Being high on marijuana is unique to the individual, but there are some signs you may notice if your teen has recently smoked pot:  

  • Your teen may have red, bloodshot eyes.
  • Your teen could be very giddy or very tired, depending on when they got high.
  • Your teen may be paranoid or anxious.
  • They may get the “munchies” and be hungry for anything they can get their hands on.

Mood or Behavior Changes

A change in behavior is one of the biggest telltale signs your teen may be using drugs.

Regular marijuana use might lead to varying behavior at school, work, changes in attendance in school, or mood swings. Your teen’s appearance may change, too.

Additionally, it could be that your teen demonstrates a more laid-back or “lazy” demeanor. It’s possible they may neglect chores or other activities. However, it’s important to remember that the effects of marijuana on an individual vary. It’s best not to make the assumption your teen is on drugs until you have further evidence or you are able to have an honest discussion with them about it.  

Signs of Drug Paraphernalia

While it’s good practice to give your teen privacy, it’s important to remember what your teen is doing is your business. So if you have a reason to suspect your teen is using drugs, it’s worth investigating.

Be on the lookout for pipes, rolling papers, and baggies with marijuana residue. These items may be hidden in canisters, books, or bottles in your teen’s room.  

Your Teen’s Friends

Sometimes, parents find out about their teen’s marijuana use through their teen’s friends. A parent might confide in you that your child’s friend was caught smoking marijuana or using drugs.

Spending time with friends who use drugs may indicate that your teen could be using drugs as well. It’s important to know who is influencing your teen.   If you know your teen’s friends are smoking, you can use this fact to open up a conversation about what it means to your teen that his/her friends are smoking, which may lead you to discover if your teen is participating as well.

Hiding the Evidence

Teens who use marijuana, especially around the home, have to be resourceful to mask the smell and hide the evidence.

Marijuana has a distinct order and if you have ever smelled it, you’ll recognize it again. If you have not, call your local community center or police department and sign up for a D.A.R.E. or parenting class on teen drug use.

You may find your teen has taken an interest in incense or air fresheners. Or, they may start using eye drops to mask the redness in their eyes.  

Drug Tests

If you’re suspicious your teen may be using marijuana, a home drug testing kit can give you an answer. Available at pharmacies and online drug stores, most kits will test for a variety of drugs, including marijuana.

And while positive test results could be a first step in getting your teen help, drug testing your child definitely has some serious risks. It could greatly impair your relationship with your teen. And that could be quite harmful in the long-term.

Additionally, at-home drug tests don’t detect all drugs. Synthetic drugs, for example, might not show up on a screening even though they can be just as dangerous as other drugs.

So think twice about drug testing your teen. Instead, put your energy into creating a healthy relationship that encourages your teen to be honest with you.

Again, marijuana use varies per the individual. Behavior changes may come in many different forms, so it is best not to jump to conclusions that your teen is on drugs and to try to communicate with them openly and honestly.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

If you suspect your teen may be using marijuana, you should be on the lookout for these warning signs that may indicate drug use.