What is cannabis?
Cannabis, also known as ‘marijuana’ or ‘weed’, is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant. It has many medicinal uses but is also widely used for recreational purposes because of the symptoms produced by the ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is what induces most of the drug’s mental and physical effects, which includes euphoria, relaxation, a sense of tranquillity, paranoia, impaired movement and an increase in appetite.
Cannabis is typically smoked, either in a pipe or a roll-up, however, other methods of consumption have recently become more popular and it is now far more common for cannabis to be baked or cooked into certain foods, referred to as ‘edibles’. Many countries have legalised cannabis which has seen its uses, both medicinal and recreational, increase significantly.
Is cannabis addictive?
There have long been conflicting reports about whether or not cannabis can cause addiction, and while it is unlikely that users will develop a physical dependence on cannabis, the risk of psychological addiction is still very present. Psychological addiction can cause just as much disruption to a person’s life and still requires therapy to identify and treat the source of the disease.
Cannabis has always been considered a riskless substance in comparison to other drugs. This may be, in part, because any negative symptoms of prolonged cannabis use tend to manifest much slower than they would with opioids or stimulants. Cannabis withdrawal is also not a turbulent and painful experience, which is why many people don’t consider it a dangerous addiction.
Drugs differ in their effects, but the symptoms of addiction are relatively consistent. Just as someone takes cocaine to make them feel confident and alert, people use cannabis to relax and unwind, this altered state of mind can become addictive.
Ultimately, the consequences of cannabis abuse might not be as detrimental as those of other drugs, but this doesn’t eliminate its ability to cause addiction
The effects of cannabis on the brain and body
Cannabis has powerful mind-altering properties. However, its effects can impact the body as well as the brain. Many people use cannabis because of its ability to help them relax, but not everyone’s experience with the drug will be positive.
Depending on how potent the substance is, cannabis can impair your judgement and cloud your senses, in addition to causing damage to parts of the body. This could lead to:
When under the influence of any substance, users tend to experience lowered inhibitions and increased confidence. This increases the risk of engaging in reckless behaviours, such as unprotected sex and physical violence.
Distorted sense of time
It is not uncommon for users to develop a completely distorted sense of time and space when under the influence of cannabis, which can be detrimental in a professional capacity.
Inflamed and irritated lungs
When used regularly, cannabis can cause breathing problems similar to those caused by smoking cigarettes, resulting in persistent coughing and build-up of mucus.
Impaired brain function
Studies have found that prolonged use of cannabis can often lead to permanent changes within the brain. Tests carried out in teenagers found that there were fewer connections in parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory and alertness. These changes make certain activities, like driving, more dangerous.
Signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction
Addiction is a complex disease and confronting someone about their drug use isn’t always straightforward, as it is highly unlikely they’ll admit to abusing cannabis when asked. Denial is possibly one of the most common symptoms of addiction, and whether you’re using cannabis yourself, or know someone who is, you may have to look closely at other possible signs and symptoms to identify a cannabis addiction.
If you find yourself behaving defensively when asked about your drug use or minimising the effects, then you may be in denial about the extent of your habit.
Alongside behavioural signs like this, cannabis addiction is linked to a range of other physical and psychological symptoms, the intensity of which will depend on how much cannabis you use and how often you use it. However, identifying the signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction is the first step towards getting treatment and achieving long-term recovery.
Psychological symptoms of cannabis addiction:
- Mood swings
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Low self-esteem
- Impaired judgement
- Problems with short-term memory
- Using cannabis for stress relief, which is a common trigger for many heavy users
- Difficulty focussing on work/at school
Intense cravings for cannabis
- Worsening of any existing mental health problems
Physical symptoms of cannabis addiction:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Increased appetite
- Impaired co-ordination
- Poor personal hygiene
- Dry mouth
Behavioural symptoms of cannabis addiction:
- Continuing to take cannabis despite the negative consequences
- Polydrug use (taking more than one substance)
- Poor work and school performance
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Engaging in risky behaviours when under the influence of cannabis
- Social isolation
- Associating heavily with others who use cannabis
- Obsessing over obtaining and using cannabis
- Neglecting relationships
Risks of cannabis use
Cannabis is one of the most popular drugs available today, and while it is typically viewed as a relatively harmless substance it is still a mind-altering one.
Cannabis is responsible for producing long-term changes to the brain and body, the effects of which won’t show up until years later
Once cannabis reaches the brain, it works by interfering with its natural processes to boost specific functions. To protect itself, the brain resists the effects of cannabis so that each time you use, the effects of the drug weaken. However, this often leads to more frequent consumption and larger doses.
Although the long-term effects associated with cannabis addiction aren’t considered to be as detrimental as other drugs, there are still some concerning symptoms that could arise as a result of cannabis addiction and abuse. These include:
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Reduced ability to learn
- Lung infections
- Inhibited mental development
- Impaired motor function
Cannabis addiction treatment
Due to its reputation as a ‘soft drug’, many people dismiss the idea of residential rehab treatment for cannabis addiction. While the withdrawal symptoms of cannabis aren’t as challenging as other drugs, psychological detoxes are just as important as undergoing a physical detox.
Many people associate residential rehab as a place for people to detox from drugs and alcohol, and while detoxification is an important aspect of the recovery process, it does not address the causes of an addiction. One of the many benefits of residential rehab is that you can take part in intensive therapy programmes which are designed to explore any catalysts that might have contributed to your addiction.
At Step-By-Step Recovery our approach to cannabis addiction treatment is always carried out effectively and compassionately. We never assume that each person’s addiction journey is the same, which is why we take such a unique approach when it comes to treating cannabis addiction. Our treatment centre offers a range of therapies, proven to help in healing the mind, body and spirit. We work hard to ensure that your treatment programme accurately reflects your challenges, needs and goals.
Our dedicated treatment team consists of medical and mental health professionals with years of experience effectively treating addiction. We know that bespoke addiction treatment is the best way to tackle this illness, and so each client is given a programme specifically tailored to their needs.
Treatment doesn’t end when you leave our clinic and we’re aware of the potential struggles that exist outside of rehab, which is why we offer all clients access to lifetime aftercare support.
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A page revised the 6 of July of 2021, by Matthew Reece, a certified PG cons diploma, a clinical Lead/ Senior counsellor at Step by Step Recovery.
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