Cannabis Users Ask: Is Weed Addictive?

Cannabis is a drug that is widely accepted as being one of the gateway drugs to the users of more dangerous substances. It is a drug that is also socially acceptable in most circles because of two common myths associated with it. The first myth is that cannabis does not harm the physical health of users. The second can be encapsulated in a simple question: is weed addictive?

As far as human health is concerned, any drug that is subject to abuse does have negative consequences. Smoking cannabis should obviously qualify. Just consider the act of smoking it.

If smoking tobacco is harmful because of all the chemicals released by the combustion process, why would someone think smoking weed is harmless? Cannabis smoke contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, and cannabis users tend to hold the smoke in their lungs longer, leading to significantly more exposure.

As far as addiction is concerned, research over the last decade has shown that the drug can be addictive to people who use it long enough. No, it’s not as highly addictive as other drugs like crack cocaine or heroin. But cannabis is addictive nonetheless.

Why Is Weed Addictive?

For decades, we assumed that cannabis was not addictive because it does not produce the same kinds of signs and symptoms as other drugs like alcohol and methamphetamine. But as our understanding of both cannabis and addiction has grown, we have come to realise just how serious cannabis addiction can be. According to the NHS, as many as 10% of regular users become psychologically dependent on the drug.

It is important for us to make the distinction between psychologically and physically dependent. Though it is true that cannabis does have an effect on the body whenever it’s used, symptoms that would suggest physical dependence are not common. The real problem with this drug is psychological. It is a lot like cocaine in that regard.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas’ School of Behavioural and Brain Sciences concluded that long-term cannabis use permanently alters brain function to the point that using the drug consistently for an extended period of time does create psychological dependence.

Researchers used brain scans to measure how the brain responds to the mere suggestion of using cannabis. By showing subjects pictures of various substances and measuring how the brain responded, they were able to see clearly that those who used cannabis regularly experienced activation of the brain’s reward centres when shown pictures of cannabis products. Their brains did not register the same kind of response when shown pictures of other pleasant things.

Among study participants who did not use cannabis, there was no notable difference in brain activity when the cannabis related pictures were shown. They were more apt to derive pleasure from pictures of other things, like fruit for example.

What are the long-term risks?

It should be noted that subjects in the University of Texas study that demonstrated dependence to the drug had been using cannabis at least 12 years, on average. That’s not to say it takes that long for cannabis addiction to develop; science does not yet know how long it takes most people to reach a point of dependence.

Having said that, the long-term risks associated with cannabis use are more common among individuals who use the drug for many years. Some of those long-term risks are as follows:

  • Lung Disease – Cannabis smoke contains at least 50 of the toxic chemicals and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Therefore, long-term cannabis users are at a higher risk for lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, and other similar conditions. Risks are exacerbated when cannabis is mixed with tobacco.
  • Gum Disease – Smoking marijuana for years on end can cause periodontal disease, causing the gums to swell and the teeth to fall out.
  • Infertility – Men who used cannabis regularly are at higher risk of infertility due to lower sperm counts. Women are also at risk, as cannabis can disrupt ovulation.
  • Mental Illness – Research has shown that long-term use of cannabis can lead to mental illness. Users are subject to illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia.

As you can see, cannabis use is not as innocent as it’s made out to be. It has a negative effect on the brain while increasing risks for certain kinds of physical illnesses that could otherwise be avoided by staying away from the drug. Simply put, don’t believe the common misconception that cannabis is safe. It is not.

What Can Be Done about Cannabis Addiction?

The good news about cannabis addiction is that it can be helped. Marijuana use does not have to be the defining factor of your life that controls what you do, where you go, the kind of friends you keep company with, etc. You can stop using the drug once and for all if you truly want to. The first step in doing so is to contact us on our 24-hour helpline.

As the effects of cannabis on the body don’t produce a high degree of physical dependence, detox is normally not associated with cannabis rehab. Only if you’re mixing the drug with other physically dependent substances will detox be necessary. Otherwise you can go right to psychotherapeutic treatment to help you overcome psychological addiction.

Psychotherapeutic treatments include things like support group participation and cognitive behavioural therapy. The idea behind these treatments is to help you understand why you use marijuana as much as you do. Treatments help you draw a correlation between your tendency to use cannabis and the problems doing so is causing your life. The solutions are offered to help you avoid continued use.

For more information about cannabis addiction and recovery, please contact us on our freephone number or through this website. We have counsellors standing by to help you. Learning to bring an end to your cannabis problem can begin as soon you to make the decision to call.

Sources:

 

  1. Cancer Research
  2. Daily Mail
 
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