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Cannabis Addiction – Is It Really a Gateway Drug?

Before discussing cannabis addiction, we first need to take a look at what cannabis actually is. Cannabis is a Class B illegal drug here in the UK, but many people believe it should be legalised, or at the very least, decriminalised. This drug comes from the cannabis plant and is typically rolled with tobacco and smoked by those who use it. However, it can also be brewed in tea or added to cake mixtures. Cannabis is also known as marijuana, hash, weed, grass, and pot.

Cannabis makes users feel relaxed and sleepy, or it can create a feeling of giddiness, with some users feeling very talkative. It contains a psychoactive ingredient known as tetrahydrocannabinol. It is this ingredient that can also make some users feel paranoid or cause hallucinations.

Is Cannabis Addictive?

Many individuals believe that cannabis is harmless and in no way addictive. Nevertheless, others, including a number of health experts, are of the opinion that cannabis is definitely a drug to which a person can become both physically and psychologically addicted.

Not every person who smokes cannabis will develop an addiction to the substance; in fact, the addiction rate is quite low when compared to other illegal drugs, but there is no disputing the fact that some people do depend on this drug to the point where it is having a negative impact on their life. Cannabis addiction is a very real illness and one that many are struggling with every single day. The good news is that there are many treatment providers around the UK with experience in helping patients overcome their addiction to the drug.

Are You Addicted to Cannabis?

While some people are still of the opinion that cannabis is not an addictive drug, those who are affected by this illness know differently. If you are worried that you may have a cannabis addiction, you need to examine your habit carefully. Your behaviour towards cannabis will be a good indicator of whether you should be worried or not.

For example, if you find that you are regularly smoking cannabis and that you are constantly thinking about it when you are not using, then you may already have a problem. If smoking cannabis has become the most important thing in your life and you are smoking more of it in order to achieve the desired effects, then you could have developed a tolerance to it.

Addiction is classed as any pattern of behaviour that has adverse consequences for the individual. Therefore, if cannabis is causing problems in your life, it has become problematic and is something you need to address. Cannabis addicts tend to put the drug above everything else in their lives. They will neglect responsibilities and relationships in favour of using the drug and will be unable to quit or cut down even if they wanted to.

It is important to remember that, as with most addictions, a cannabis addiction is not something that occurs overnight. It is a progressive illness, and it will not go away by itself. If you have become dependent on cannabis, you need to get help to overcome it.

Denial

Denial is very common among addicts, and those with cannabis addictions are no exception. Many cannabis addicts will never admit to having an addiction. They will be of the opinion that they can quit anytime; it is easy to say this if you have never tried to quit. It is quite another thing to quit if you have become an addict.

Cannabis addicts do not practice denial because they are stubborn. Many just cannot comprehend that their cannabis habit has actually progressed from being something they do recreationally to something they have come to physically depend on. Until they try to quit, they will be unable to appreciate that it has become a negative force in their life.

Family members and friends often feel frustration when they fail to get through to a loved one who clearly has a problem with drugs or alcohol. While it is evident to these others that substance abuse is having negative consequences, the addicted person may be unable to see the truth. In many instances, this denial is a protective measure. It is the affected individual’s brain’s way of protecting them from an unpleasant reality.

The Consequences of a Cannabis Addiction

Those who abuse cannabis over an extended period are in danger of becoming physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. It is only when they stop using the drug suddenly that they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, anxiety, agitation, loss of appetite, depression, and cravings for the drug.

Long-term users often experience damage to the brain, with memory and learning problems regularly occurring. They may also suffer from mood swings and chronic depression.

Cannabis addiction also affects the individual’s lifestyle. It can affect his or her ability to get good grades in school or to hold down a job. This can lead to financial hardship and problems with family relationships.

Does Cannabis Use Lead to Other Drug Use?

One of the largest issues that some people have with cannabis is the fact that they believe it to be a ‘gateway’ drug. That means that they are of the opinion that those who abuse cannabis will progress to abusing other more dangerous illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin, for example.

The reality is that while some cocaine and heroin addicts did experiment with cannabis before moving on to harder drugs, the majority of those using cannabis never go on to use harder substances.

Many experts believe that it is other factors that cause a person to be affected by addiction, things such as a family history of addiction, environment, traumatic experiences, and early exposure. They believe that those who develop addictions to cannabis are also prone to addiction to other substances such as alcohol, or drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Spotting Cannabis Addiction

It’s hard for family members and friends to pinpoint whether a loved one is addicted to cannabis unless they know for sure that this individual actually uses the drug. They may suspect that their loved one does indeed have an addiction but may be unable to tell for sure which substance he or she is addicted to.

It is generally easier to tell if someone is abusing cannabis rather than another drug due to the distinctive smell of the substance. Cannabis produces a distinct odour and there are a number of behavioural signs to look out for that could confirm your suspicions. Look out for the following:

  • Poor coordination
  • Memory problems
  • Constant chesty cough
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slow reactions
  • Periods of bingeing (known as the ‘munchies’).

Help for Addiction

If you are worried about yourself or someone you love, then you have come to the right place. The first step on the road to recovery is admitting the problem exists and then reaching out for help. The fact that you are here now indicates that you already know there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

If you are worried about yourself and have noticed that you are using more cannabis than before, it may be due to having developed a tolerance to the effects of the drug. You may also be experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not smoking the drug; and if this is the case, then you have probably developed a dependence on it. Now is the time to reach out and get the help you need to overcome this problem.

Remember, a cannabis addiction will not simply disappear just because you want it to. Addiction is an illness that changes the way the brain functions. Even those who do recognise they have a problem and want to quit will be unable to if they have an addiction. Cannabis addicts have an inability to control their cannabis use and often smoke more of the drug than they planned to. They will continue to smoke it even when doing so causes negative consequences for themselves and those they love.

Cannabis Rehab

It may be necessary for you or a loved one to enter a programme of cannabis rehab in order to overcome the addiction. This can be done through an inpatient or outpatient programme, depending on the severity of the addiction and the health of the patient.

Treatment for cannabis addiction usually includes counselling and therapies designed to help the individual identify the cause of the addictive behaviour and to learn how to avoid succumbing to it in the future.

For more information on cannabis rehab, contact us here at Recovery.org.uk.