Addiction is a concept that is challenging to both define and understand. Every person has a different level or tolerance to addiction, so from the get go, we have to dispel the concept that drug addiction only comes to be when there is a physical dependency involved. Addiction is a little more complicated than that, mainly when we deal with drugs such as cannabis, and it is important to understand the connection between addiction and mental health. Plainly, cannabis or weed addiction can be and is a real thing that affects many people across the world.
With the advent of legalization, we are turning an eye to potential issues such as addiction and other impacted areas of our lives. While a majority of regular cannabis users do not develop a dependency, on average, studies show that up to 30% of users show signs of disorder or abuse. To make matters worse, when we factor age into the equation, the likelihood increases. Specifically, if a person begins to use cannabis before the age of 18, they are up to seven times more likely to show signs of abuse or addiction. Many people assume that you cannot develop a dependency on cannabis, or that addiction to weed isn’t a real thing, chiefly because it’s unlikely that you will overdose on it, but that is a misconception that is causing harm to those who desperately need help.
We’re here to help give you a quick run down on weed addiction, how it happens and what happens to your brain, so you can become a little more informed! Read on to learn more.
Your Brain On Weed
Cannabis is a fun, and useful substance that can, in fact, trick your brain. Thanks to the chemical structure of THC being so similar to the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide, our brains can be fooled by THC and can increase our dopamine production, resulting in an exciting high. To break it down further, anandamide is a neurotransmitter which allows our neurons to communicate by sending chemical messages between our nerve cells. This happens in the regions of the brain that are responsible for concentration, memory, logic, thinking, coordination, pleasure, time perception and movement. Due to anandamide and THC having similar chemical structures, THC can cling to our brains’ cannabinoid receptors and ultimately disrupt or affect both our cognitive or physical functions.
When this happens, and dopamine production kicks into high gear, THC can be responsible for the feeling of bliss or pleasure – something that is hard to avoid if you have a penchant for addiction.
More THC Than Ever Before
A lot of concepts or misunderstanding around weed addiction were developed in a very different era than the one we are in now. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s marijuana was much less potent and potentially less addictive than the options we have available to us now. Thanks to advanced growing techniques and work being done on cannabis strains, we are looking at an increase of THC in marijuana of anywhere between 3 to 13 times the amount that we saw in the 90s.
Recreational use of marijuana is easy for some, but the truth is, the weed that we have access to now has a much higher amount of THC than before, which could potentially make it even more addictive than ever. For many, there is no question that they can develop a dependence on a substance such as this.
How Can You Know?
Due to the myriad of reasons shown above, it’s no wonder why some may be predisposed or have developed an addiction or dependence on this substance. Whether it’s in your own life, or you are seeing a loved one struggle, here are some of the possible signs of addiction to cannabis.
In fact, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-5, recognizes weed addiction as “Cannabis Use Disorder.” Outlined there are ten symptoms that denote an addiction. In order to properly diagnose, one must have at least two out of the ten listed symptoms for a period of 12 months.
The ten symptoms are defined as:
- Feeling an intense need to use cannabis.
- Consuming weed for a longer period and in larger quantities than first intended.
- You build a tolerance to the substance and need more to get high.
- Spending time on acquiring and consuming cannabis or cannabis-related products.
- Often considering quitting usage, but unable, or failing to do so.
- Weed becomes your hobby and you lose interest in things that once excited you.
- It begins to impact your life. You may abuse the substance so much that you are unable to follow through on commitments or fulfill responsibilities.
- Although you may experience problems in your social life (relationships or friendships) due to your cannabis consumption, you still use it.
- You use cannabis in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
- Your body goes through withdrawal if you are without cannabis for any amount of time.
When speaking of withdrawal in the sense of cannabis use, while nowhere near as intense as withdrawal from other drugs such as cocaine or opioids, it still can affect and disrupt your normal physical state. Thankfully this only lasts up to three weeks, depending on the person. Cannabis withdrawal can take the form of the following:
- Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
- Lack of an appetite
- And many more.
Labelling something as an addiction is probably the toughest part of a substance abuse problem. Many people who struggle with this are unable to correctly identify that they need help in the first place. This rings truer for those who use cannabis as believe that they can quit anytime they want. Truly this is the case with many substances, and many live in denial of their situation.
To help deal with marjiuana substance abuse or addiction, one can help mitigate the effects by:
- Ensuring they have a strong social network and stable relationships that help them feel integrated into society. These people are less likely to start abusing cannabis as they have other things in their life that give them pleasure.
- Those who feel more integrated and have the strong social base will also have more fleshed-out responsibility skills and will have more power and autonomy in their lives.
Weed addiction is no laughing matter. Now, more than ever, we have to understand the implications of cannabis use so that we, as a society, can enjoy this wonder plant without fear or worry – and by truly understand the effect that cannabis has on us, we can help those who are unable to use the substance safely.
Getting The Help You Need
With any drug addiction, it can be tough to imagine a life without the substance and the addict may wonder if their life will ever be fun again after recovery. Recovery does not mean that your life will no longer be fun. It’s only the beginning to a happier, healthier life without the traditional financial, emotional and physical drain that comes with addiction.
If you find that you’re experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms above, or are unable to control your cannabis use, it may be time to get the help you need.