Cannabis (weed, skunk, pot, hash or grass) is the most widely used illicit drug in the UK, with around 30% of all 16-59-year-olds reporting having used the drug in their life.
Despite its prevalence in society and certain myths enduring about its safety, cannabis can be a dangerous and destructive substance, linked to numerous physical and mental health problems.
Is weed even addictive?
There is a commonly-held notion that cannabis is not an addictive or habit-forming substance. Many casual users are confident that, unlike ‘harder’ drugs such as cocaine or heroin, cannabis is not a substance that will lead to chemical dependence issues.
While it isn’t addictive in the same way as opiates such as fentanyl or heroin have, it can cause significant dependency issues.
Especially as those who use it, smoke it to escape reality, calm anxiety and alleviate symptoms of depression.
If you’re concerned about someone smoking cannabis – chat with us right now, we can advise on what to do next.
The immediate effects of cannabis abuse and addiction
Cannabis use disorder is similar in many ways to chemical addiction, so what are the negative effects of this dependency on a user’s body and mind?
A cannabis addict can suffer from:
- Panic attacks
- Lack of motivation
Cannabis users self-describe what they perceive to be the positive effects of the drug, often unaware of the damage it is concurrently doing to their bodies and minds.
The long-term picture
In terms of the long-term prognosis for how cannabis use disorder affects the body and mind of a user, this depends to an extent on when a person begins to use the drug and at what age they become addicted.
Smoking weed daily for a number of years has seen to cause alarming issues, such as psychosis and separation from reality.
Younger users of cannabis (particularly teenagers) can experience:
- Altered brain development – The effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the psychoactive element of cannabis) mean that if a user becomes addicted to cannabis at a young enough age, they do not develop as many neural fibres in certain parts of the brain, leading to limited brain development at a key stage in life.
- Lower IQ – Teenagers who smoke or ingest significant quantities of weed at a young age experience cognitive impairment and a lower intelligence quotient as they grow up.
Marijuana users with a cannabis use disorder of any age can experience several symptoms over a long period of time:
- Anxiety and depression (co-occurring issues with addiction)
- Poor performance at work or school
- Lack of satisfaction, achievement and motivation
- Onset of psychosis
The danger with cannabis is that the most dangerous and medically damaging symptoms of addiction appear over a longer period of time than with some harder drugs.
Casual users of the drug may go for years without experiencing any serious effect on their life before realising that over time they have become addicted.
As with many other types of addictive substances, the earlier in the process of addiction that you seek medical treatment, the better your chances of avoiding serious long-term consequences, including death.
Coming off cannabis
Around 30% of those who use cannabis experience what health professionals call ‘cannabis use disorder’ which presents in a very similar way to chemical addiction and causes some of the same health and social problems.
Also, much like chemical addiction to opiates, cannabis use disorder brings with it negative withdrawal symptoms when a user stops taking the drug, including;
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irregular appetite and significant overeating
Withdrawal symptoms are usually unpleasant and this can be a major factor in why those who are suffering from addiction do not engage with support, detox or recovery.
However, the physical and emotional side effects of withdrawal are a small price to pay to lead a healthier life, free from the constraints of dependency brought on by a cannabis use disorder.
Read more about the facts surrounding cannabis and addiction from the NHS site.
How to spot marijuana abuse
If you are concerned about a friend or loved one who uses cannabis and are concerned that they may have an unhealthy or dangerous relationship with the drug then there are several tell-tale signs to look out for:
- Losing interest in activities that were previously important
- Lack of confidence
- Symptoms alike to depression
- Declining performance at school or work or increasing unexplained absence
- Using cannabis (in any amount) in dangerous situations (ie. before driving)
- The onset of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and paranoia
Treatment through rehab
The major sticking issue that gets in the way of people suffering from cannabis addiction is an unwillingness to see their problem as an issue, unlike with some of the more immediately destructive effects of opiates such as heroin and Oxycontin.
However, the long-term health and social problems caused and worsened by cannabis addiction use are just as likely to require medical intervention.
Removing yourself from the site of your addiction and removing yourself from triggers at a cannabis rehab that specialises in cannabis dependency is perhaps the most effective way of overcoming your addiction.
Call 0808 1150 446 today to speak to an expert at the Executive Rehab Guide and discuss how you or your loved one can overcome cannabis addiction to lead a healthier, happier life in recovery.