An Integrated Approach to Young Adult Mental Health Rehab

Marijuana Addiction Rehab for Young Adults

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Young adults are more likely than any other age group to smoke marijuana. While cigarette smoking among this demographic has declined and alcohol use has remained level, more young adults are vaping or smoking marijuana than ever before. As a result, the need for marijuana addiction rehab is also on the rise.

In addition, the social isolation and stress of the pandemic has contributed to increased marijuana use among young adults. This demographic has been the hardest hit by mental health issues resulting from loneliness, fear, and uncertainty. Hence, they’re using marijuana as a form of self-medication and stress relief.   

Statistics on Young Adult Marijuana Use

The annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey tracks trends in teen and young adult mental health and substance abuse. The most recent MTF report, analyzing 2019 data, found that marijuana use among young adults (ages 19–28) has reached all-time highs.

In addition, marijuana vaping in this age group went up significantly. Among young adults ages 19 to 22, 25 percent had vaped marijuana at least once in the year prior to the survey and 15 percent had vaped marijuana in the 30 days prior. This spike in young adults vaping marijuana represents one of the largest increases in substance use in the 46-year history of the survey.

Know the Facts

One in four young adults uses marijuana, and nearly one in 10 uses marijuana daily.

Specifically, the 2019 MTF report revealed the following statistics:

  • 40 percent of young adults used marijuana at least once in the 12 months prior to the survey
  • 27 percent of this age group used it at least once in the 30 days prior
  • 9.4 percent were daily or near-daily marijuana users.

Marijuana vaping rates nearly tripled in college students between 2017 and 2019 (from 5 to 14 percent). Furthermore, they doubled for young adults not in college (from 8 to 17 percent). And while statistics on young adult marijuana use and addiction to marijuana during the pandemic have not yet been finalized, they are likely to reveal even larger numbers. A study released last August found that 25 percent of young adults started or increased substance use in 2020 to cope with pandemic-related stress. And it is safe to assume that many of them increased their use of marijuana. Among young adults, alcohol is the only substance used more frequently than marijuana.

What Is Cannabis Use Disorder?

The terms cannabis and marijuana are often used interchangeably. Actually, cannabis is the name for a category of plants that includes marijuana as well as hemp and other plant species. Marijuana is the only cannabis plant that contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of the drug.

Therefore, cannabis use disorder, also known as marijuana use disorder, is characterized by a dependence on marijuana. Cannabis use disorder symptoms include:

  • Daily use of marijuana
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when deprived of the drug
  • Inability to stop using even when daily functioning is disrupted and school, work, and/or relationships are negatively impacted.

Addiction to marijuana also involves a neurobiological component. Frequent use reduces the body’s production of the natural endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, creating an increased craving for the drug. Hence, marijuana addiction rehab helps young adults to safely discontinue use.

Marijuana Addiction Facts

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) both identify marijuana as an addictive drug. And, according to NIDA, 30 percent of people who use marijuana may have some degree of cannabis use disorder. However, many young adults don’t realize that marijuana is addictive.

NIDA research shows that young adults who started smoking marijuana as teens are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder and require marijuana addiction rehab. Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking or drinking alcohol as a teen
  • Frequently missing school
  • Being arrested as a result of drug or alcohol use
  • Perceiving drugs and alcohol as safe to use
  • Believing that parents find drug or alcohol use acceptable.

Moreover, as an increasing number of states legalize recreational marijuana use, young adults’ perceptions of the drug have changed. The MTF survey found that only about 6 percent of young adults perceived a “great risk of harm” related to smoking marijuana. And only a quarter of those surveyed thought that regular use was potentially dangerous.

Effects of Marijuana Use

Over time, the physical, mental, and behavioral effects of marijuana use can include:

  • Reduction in cognitive and problem-solving ability
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Paranoia
  • Drowsiness
  • Altered sense of time
  • Mood changes
  • Impaired memory
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions, when taken in high doses
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia
  • Breathing problems
  • Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, causing regular cycles of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention.

Cannabis Use Disorder Symptoms

Cannabis use disorder symptoms include a specific set of criteria, as follows:

  • Smoking or vaping higher quantities or for a longer period of time than intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or control use
  • Spending large amounts of time obtaining and using marijuana, and recovering from the effects of marijuana use
  • Craving or strong desire to use cannabis
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home due to cannabis use
  • Still using the drug despite having ongoing social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by marijuana use
  • Giving up or minimizing social or recreational activities because of cannabis use
  • Using marijuana in situations that make it dangerous to physical safety, such as driving
  • Continuing to smoke or vape marijuana even though you know it’s creating problems for you
  • Increased tolerance for the drug
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using marijuana.

Mental Health and Young Adult Marijuana Use

As with other types of substance abuse, addiction to marijuana is typically a manifestation of underlying mental health issues. Hence, marijuana use becomes a maladaptive coping mechanism for the pain and distress associated with trauma and attachment wounds, as well as anxiety, depression, grief, and collective trauma. That’s why, according to research done during the pandemic, young adults who reported increased substance use were more likely to be anxious, depressed, and lonely.

In addition, cannabis use disorder can trigger or exacerbate mental health symptoms. Therefore, marijuana and depression are often linked, as are marijuana and anxiety. Research shows the following mental health effects of marijuana use in college students and other young adults.

  • Daily marijuana use could increase the likelihood of developing psychosis by nearly five times, particularly for those with preexisting genetic predispositions or other vulnerabilities.
  • Marijuana addiction in young adults is closely associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Cannabis use during the teen years is linked to an increased risk of depression and suicidality in adulthood.
  • Frequent marijuana users are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who do not use cannabis.

Marijuana Addiction Rehab at Newport Institute

Because marijuana is addictive, the first step in marijuana addiction rehab is to safely stop using the drug.

But ceasing use is only the beginning of marijuana treatment for young adults. At Newport Institute, our approach to marijuana addiction rehab focuses on guiding young adults to understand and address the underlying issues prompting their marijuana use. Moreover, we help them learn new coping skills to support sustainable recovery for the future.

Consequently, a comprehensive residential program for marijuana addiction rehab program includes the following components:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help young adults change their habitual patterns of thinking and acting, while fostering positive coping mechanisms
  • Family therapy to repair rifts in the family system so young adults can turn to parents for support on their healing journey, and form healthy attachments with peers and community
  • Group therapy that allows young adults to find community and connection to replace the isolation caused by cannabis use disorder
  • Experiential modalities such as art and music therapy, Adventure Therapy, and Equine Therapy, to help process underlying trauma and attachment wounds
  • Yoga and meditation to rebalance the nervous system and promote resilience
  • A thorough after-care plan to support young adults in maintaining a recovery lifestyle and navigating the risk of relapse.

Ultimately, marijuana addiction rehab prepares young adults to move into this exciting stage of life with self-knowledge, self-compassion, and a toolkit that empowers them to thrive, even in difficult times.


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MMWR. 2020 Aug; 69(32);1049–1057.

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Monitoring the Future Study 2019

Addict Behav. 2010 Feb; 35(2):91–94.

Treatment / January 6, 2021

Newport Institute

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