Cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed, is one of the most widely used drugs globally and the most used in England and Wales, with 7.4% of adults aged 16-to-59 years old and 16.2% of 16 to 24-year-olds taking it in 2022. While some individuals can use cannabis responsibly, there is always a risk of addiction, with studies showing up to 30% of people who use cannabis may have an addiction. Cannabis addiction can significantly impact an individual’s physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.
This page will explain the effects of cannabis abuse, how to recognise cannabis addiction, and the first steps to take for getting help.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a drug with psychoactive properties made from the flowers, leaves, seeds and stems of the Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa plants. It contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a mind-altering chemical that causes changes in the nervous system. These changes affect behaviour, cognition, consciousness, mood and perception.
Cannabis is the most commonly cultivated, trafficked, and abused drug globally and can be smoked, vaporised, or ingested with food.
Cannabis is available in many forms, including:
- Cannabis oil: sticky and with a dark-amber colouration.
- Dab: also known as shatter. A concentrated liquid extraction for use in vapes.
- Hashish: also known as hash. A resinous substance with a dark black/brown colouration. It may be soft or hard lumps and blocks.
- Skunk: noted for its strength. Bright, dark, pale green lumps and furry leaves coated with small crystals.
- Weed: also called grass. Greenish-brown dried leaves and flowers with a herbal appearance.
What is cannabis addiction?
Cannabis addiction, also known as cannabis use disorder, is when you keep compulsively taking cannabis even though it negatively affects you.
Cannabis use disorder results from the interaction of multiple biological, psychological, and social causes.
Biological causes of cannabis addiction…
- Genetics: Some people are more vulnerable to cannabis addiction
- Neurotransmitters: Brain chemicals like dopamine in our reward system play a role in cannabis addiction
Psychological causes of cannabis addiction…
- Mental health disorders: Anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions increase the likelihood of developing cannabis addiction
- Stress or trauma: Traumatic experiences or ongoing stress contribute to cannabis addiction development
- Emotional coping mechanisms: People sometimes use cannabis to cope with complicated feelings or situations
Social causes of cannabis addiction…
- Environment: Growing up around cannabis use increases the risk of later addiction
- Peer pressure: The influence of friendship groups can play a role in developing cannabis addiction if used socially
- Access: If cannabis is readily available at school or in the local area, it increases the risk of addiction
Everyone is different, and your reasons for developing an addiction will be unique to you. Understanding the underlying causes of your cannabis use disorder is crucial for lasting recovery. Fortunately, help is available.
What are the signs of cannabis addiction?
Cannabis use disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is described as a problematic pattern of cannabis abuse causing clinically significant distress or impairment.
You may be addicted to cannabis if you experience some of the following:
- Craving cannabis
- Needing to use more cannabis to get high
- Buying and using more cannabis than you intended
- Financial problems due to purchasing large amounts of cannabis
- Trying but failing to quit cannabis use
- Spending most of your free time using cannabis
- Using cannabis even when it causes difficulties at home, school, or work
- Continuing to use cannabis even when it causes relationship or social problems
- Abandoning important activities with family or friends to use cannabis
- Taking cannabis in dangerous situations, like driving a car
- Continuing cannabis use, even when it causes physical or psychological problems
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping cannabis use
How can I tell if someone I know has a cannabis addiction?
Cannabis addiction is a complex issue. Not every cannabis user becomes addicted, and it is possible to be addicted without showing all the signs.
If you suspect a friend or loved one is developing a cannabis addiction, look out for these common symptoms:
- Struggling to meet school, work or home responsibilities
- Abandoning hobbies and activities, they previously enjoyed
- Neglecting personal appearance
- Agitation, irritability or other changes in behaviour or mood
- Legal or financial problems
Be mindful that your loved one may be in denial about their cannabis abuse and could try to make you feel guilty for suggesting they have a problem or lie about the extent of their use. At its core, cannabis addiction often stems from underlying issues that require therapy.
Am I enabling a loved one’s cannabis addiction?
It is very important that you don’t enable a loved one’s cannabis addiction, as this can make the situation worse and prevent them from seeking help.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I lie or cover up for their cannabis use or its consequences?
- Do I give them money to buy cannabis or because they have spent all their money on cannabis and need money for essentials?
- Do I take on the responsibilities they abandoned due to cannabis use?
- Do I sometimes ignore or excuse problematic behaviour?
- Do I blame other people (partners, friends) for their actions?
You may unintentionally support their cannabis addiction if you answered yes to these questions.
What are the mental health risks of cannabis addiction?
Cannabis addiction can affect your mental health in many ways, such as:
- Disturbed sleep
- Hallucinations (even when not taking the substance)
- Marijuana Amotivational Syndrome: long-term avolition (lack of motivation) impacting all daily tasks
- Impaired learning
- Impaired memory
- Increased risk of developing schizophrenia
- Long-term anxiety
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Relapse in psychotic illness
The mental health risks associated with cannabis addiction are considered more severe if you start using cannabis as a teenager or have a family history of mental illness.
Can you overdose on cannabis?
Consuming too much cannabis is unlikely to cause death directly, but cannabis overdose can be unpleasant. Cannabis is not harmless.
The signs of a cannabis overdose may include:
- Extreme anxiety, confusion, panic or paranoia
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Increased blood pressure and fast heart rate
- Nausea or vomiting
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is a potentially fatal condition caused by prolonged or heavy cannabis use. It triggers nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Complications can include electrolyte problems and kidney failure.
How is cannabis addiction overcome?
If you or a loved one has a cannabis addiction, effective support is available. Typically, treatment starts with a medically assisted cannabis detox to break the physical dependence and remove all the THC and other toxins from your body. This is followed by cannabis rehab, which involves a range of therapies and holistic treatments to address the root causes of your cannabis addiction.
Oasis Bradford offers both stages in our renowned cannabis addiction treatment centre. If you are ready to achieve lasting sobriety, contact us today and discover a fulfilling, happy life free from cannabis.