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Cannabis Abuse


Cannabis, also called marijuana, is a drug that comes from the cannabis sativa (hemp plant). It may also be called pot, weed, or hash. Cannabis can be smoked, baked into food and eaten, or made into a tea you can drink. It can make you feel high, happy, or excited. The effects may start right away and last for 3 to 4 hours depending on whether you smoke or eat cannabis.


Seek care immediately if:

  • The effects of cannabis have worn off, and you have shortness of breath, a fast heart rate, or chest pain.
  • You want to hurt or kill yourself or others.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You cannot fight the urge to use cannabis.
  • You have stopped using cannabis, and feel that you cannot cope with your withdrawal symptoms.
  • You want help or more information on how to decrease or stop using cannabis.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Signs of cannabis abuse:

Cannabis abuse is a pattern of use that causes physical or mental problems:

  • The use of cannabis makes you unable to function at work, school, or in your home. You may be absent often, or your work may be done poorly. You may not be able to take care of your children or your home.
  • You use cannabis when it is dangerous to be under the effects of the drug. This includes when you drive a vehicle or use machinery.
  • You have problems with the police when you are under the effects of cannabis.
  • You keep using cannabis even when you argue with your family and friends about your use.
  • You need to use more cannabis to give you the high feeling or other effects that you want. You have withdrawal symptoms after you stop using cannabis.

How cannabis affects your baby:

Cannabis use may keep your unborn baby from growing as fast as he should. It may harm your unborn baby's eyes and nervous system. When he gets older, he may have difficulty in school and with solving problems. He may also have a poor memory, or problems focusing or paying attention. He may be impulsive (reacting without thinking first). He may be at an increased risk for depression. He may have a higher risk of smoking cigarettes and using cannabis when he is an adult.

Signs of cannabis withdrawal:

Cannabis withdrawal happens when you have used cannabis for a long period of time, and you suddenly take less or stop taking it. Withdrawal symptoms may start on the first day and may last up to 2 weeks. You may have more than one of the following:

  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Night sweats and trouble sleeping
  • Craving for cannabis
  • Irritability
  • Feeling agitated, anxious, or restless
  • Depressed or negative mood


  • Brief intervention therapy is done by meeting with a healthcare provider who will talk to and encourage you. During therapy, you will discuss your cannabis use with the healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will help you understand that you are responsible for making changes in your life. He will explain how you can be helped by decreasing or stopping cannabis use, and give you treatment options.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you change your thinking and behavior. It can help you manage depression and anxiety caused by cannabis use. CBT can help you learn good coping skills and ways to manage stress. CBT can be done with you and a talk therapist or in a group with others.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy is used to help you set goals to change your behavior and stop cannabis abuse.
  • Group, marriage, and family therapy can help you find support and motivation to stop cannabis abuse. Self-help group therapy includes meeting with others who also want to stop using cannabis. Marriage and family therapy can help you by including others to support you in your treatment.
  • A voucher program provides vouchers (rewards) for attending therapy or not using cannabis. You may need to provide urine samples for testing. If your urine shows no signs of cannabis use, you may get a voucher. This program may report you to the court, or tell your family or friends if you decide to use cannabis.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For more information:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9561
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-1124
    Web Address:

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Cannabis Abuse (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes