Cannabis Addiction, Harms and Treatment

Cannabis is the most common drug in the world today. Apart from tobacco, cannabis is the substance most commonly used by smoking. Cannabis sativa, commonly known as cannabis, is known worldwide as Marijuana (vegetable cannabis) and consists of dried leaves and flowers of Cannabis sativa. It has been found that 50% of Americans use marijuana at least once in their lives. The rate of cannabis use among young people in Australia is reported to be 7% in the 13-year-old group and 40% in the 17-year-old group.

People who start to use cannabis initially use it to get the feeling of euphoria (joy, vitality, happiness) given by the substance. It can be said that approximately 4% of the users have met the dependency criteria in the first two years. The fact that the average income level is low, the use of different substances before cannabis and the use of cannabis in the early stages of adolescence constitute important risk factors for addiction. Showing older than age, smoking, being in contact with parents at home and having a loose relationship, absenteeism, low self-esteem, disregarding or underestimating school success put the person at risk for cannabis addiction.

Cannabis can be taken by mouth – by sucking and chewing – but the most common use is inhalation. The main psychoactive substance is delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to the main psychoactive component delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, 400 more chemicals have been reported in cannabis smoke. The effects on the central nervous system are directly related to the rate at which the substance reaches the brain, and smoking is one of the fastest ways of achieving it.

It has been claimed that Cannabis affects the brain reward and stress systems, such as opiate (heroin), cocaine and nicotine, and also, like nicotine and cocaine, increases dopamine in the mesolimbic region. THC accumulates in the brain and adipose tissue, the fat dissolution property gives THC (cannabis) a sort of storage property, therefore, the rate of excretion from the body is low, and withdrawal symptoms are psychological rather than physiological, but dependence is a deep and severe dependence. Sometimes the cannabis removal time of the body can be up to 3 weeks or a month.

Following cannabis use, psychological and physiological changes begin to occur within a half-hour. The first is a feeling of euphoria and relief. Motor coordination (balance) gradually deteriorates, a perception of deceleration occurs in time. Depending on the amount of substance taken, the route of administration (eg, effects on oral administration are delayed), the individual’s tolerance and the rate of absorption of the substance, the onset of effects is between a few minutes and half an hour and may take 3-4 hours. Acute cannabis intoxication (cannabis poisoning) sometimes requires urgent intervention in the presence of at least two symptoms of flushing, increased appetite, dry mouth and tachycardia within two hours of use. Cannabis users frequently visit the emergency department with intense psychological stress, restlessness, and fear. Cannabis can trigger panic attacks, paranoia, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.

In some Western European countries, cannabis tolerance is often perceived among young people as evidence that this substance is less harmful and less addictive. However, the reality is not so, because the reason for this tolerance is the thought that substance tracking and addiction can be controlled more easily in this way. Some recent scientific studies in the Netherlands have shown that cannabis use is responsible for many schizophrenia cases in the world. Because of this evidence, cannabis will likely become an increasingly controlled substance. It has also been observed that there are school and learning difficulties due to memory and concentration impairment and they increase with the length of use time. Depression and suicide attempts are eight times more common in cannabis addicts than in non-cannabis addicts.

There is no specific treatment for acute poisoning, and it is symptomatic. Benzodiazepines may be useful to reduce intense anxiety. If paranoia and psychotic symptoms do not relieve after benzodiazepine use, it may be necessary to use antipsychotics for a certain period of time. A combination of psychotherapy to increase motivation including behavioral and cognitive approaches, and some antidepressants, divalproex sodium, and THC antagonist (effect blocker) rimonabant hydrochloride are promising for permanent maintenance after intoxication. Treatment should be continued with a combination of psychotherapy and medication for at least 6-8 months, and changes in the environment, school, work, and lifestyle are of great help to a permanent recovery.

Cannabis Abuse & Addiction Details

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States, according to the National Drug Addiction Institute (NIDA). It is usually smoked as a pipe or cigarette. It is also edible. The mind-altering component in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC in cannabis varies. It is common for cannabis to contain 1 to 7 percent THC.

When cannabis enters your body, THC passes from your bloodstream to the brain. The chemical targets some brain cells called cannabinoid receptors. Most of these receptor cells are found in parts of the brain that affect memory, coordination, sensory perception, and thought. A doctor may recommend medical marijuana to treat certain health conditions. Uncontrollable or excessive frequent marijuana consumption without a doctor’s prescription may indicate abuse. Cannabis abuse can have a negative impact on health. It can also lead to addiction. So, let’s see what are the symptoms of cannabis abuse and addiction.

Cannabis Abuse

Cannabis produces various symptoms in your body and mind. The symptoms may vary from person to person depending on their genetics. Other factors that may affect the symptoms are the strength of cannabis and how you take it. Your previous experience of using cannabis may also affect your response to the drug. Some symptoms are temporary, but most may last longer. Long-term symptoms may cause physical and mental complications. Cannabis abuse symptoms can occur both occasionally and in chronic use. Common transient symptoms include:

  • high awareness and sensations
  • high heart rate
  • euphoria
  • increased appetite
  • mood changes
  • decreasing coordination
  • reduced concentration
  • reduced energy
  • problem-solving difficulty
  • memory problems
  • sleep problem

Long-term marijuana use may cause more permanent and serious complications. Long-term physical complications include:

  • lung damage
  • heart problems
  • weak immune system
  • learning problems

Long-term mental complications include:

  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • to make a pre-existing condition of schizophrenia worse
  • dependence

As with other types of illicit drugs, cannabis abuse can cause addiction. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, about one in every 11 marijuana users will be dependent. The difference between abuse and dependence is defined by how often a person participates in an activity, and how difficult it is for a person to cope without activity or stop it for any period of time. It is difficult to say how much cannabis use causes addiction. It probably varies between individuals.

The effectiveness and strength of cannabis products have increased in the last 20 years. A stronger THC level increases the likelihood of dependence. According to the Department of Alcohol and Drug Education, addiction can be both physical and psychological. When you are physically dependent, your body desires the drug. When you are psychologically dependent, you intentionally desire the effects of the drug. Cannabis addiction symptoms are similar to symptoms of addiction to other drugs. Common symptoms include:

  • increased tolerance
  • continued use, even if it interferes with other aspects of oneself’s life
  • separation from friends and family
  • withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms usually begin about three weeks after the last use. Cannabis addiction withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • shake
  • anxiety
  • weight loss
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • depression
  • unrest
  • desire to smoke

Young/Adolescent Cannabis Abuse

According to NIDA, young people who abuse cannabis are at greater risk of developing brain problems. Research shows that chronic marijuana use may lead to long-term or permanent loss of mental ability during these critical years of brain development. THC targets receptors that affect memory, thinking, and learning. This may cause lasting effects, even years after discontinuing the drug.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States revealed that young people between the ages of 13 and 38 who started smoking and continued to use cannabis chronically lost an average of eight IQ points. Even those who stopped using cannabis as adults did not regain their full mental abilities. There was no significant decrease in IQ of individuals who started to smoke as an adult.

Cannabis Abuse During Pregnancy

The risk of infant development and behavioral problems increases with a woman’s cannabis abuse during her pregnancy. According to NIDA, children born to a drug abuse mother may have difficulty in memory, focus, and learning. The specific effects of cannabis in the brain of a developing fetus are still unknown. Research also found that there is sufficient THC in breast milk from marijuana-using mothers. Health professionals, therefore, encourage mothers to avoid using cannabis while breastfeeding. Additional risk factors for substance abuse include:

  • family addiction history
  • psychiatric disorder
  • lack of family participation

How Is Cannabis Abuse and Addiction Treated?

Addiction treatment may include counseling. This can help one to cope with co-existing dependencies or psychiatric problems. People who are addicted to cannabis are usually dependent on other substances too.

Types of counseling include:

  • individual or group cognitive behavioral therapy
  • family counseling
  • motivation development therapy
  • 12-stage community support groups

Some of the useful online sources of anti-abuse and addiction are:

  • SMART Recovery
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety
  • Narcotics Anonymous

There are no medications available to treat cannabis withdrawal symptoms.

Cannabis addiction depends on how long a person has been using the drug and whether or not it is dependent on other substances. Various treatments can be very effective and long-term, but relapse is a common issue. According to NIDA, about 50 percent of treated people take more than two weeks without using marijuana. The best way to prevent cannabis abuse and addiction is to avoid using it unless a medical professional prescribes it to you. Always use prescription drugs only as recommended.

Other ways to prevent cannabis addiction and abuse are to surround you with supportive family and friends you can trust. It is also beneficial to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and do a lot of exercises. Learning how to deal with stress as well as coping strategies can also play a useful role.

How Cannabis Addiction Affect Memory?

A study in the UK focuses on the causes of the different effects of marijuana on addicts. Although the effects of alcohol-induced intoxication vary from person to person, they usually go through similar steps: headache, difficulty in self-control, behavior disorder and mental inconsistency. Moreover, since the degree of alcohol in alcoholic beverages is finely adjusted and written on the bottle, it is clear from the outset how much to get drunk.

However, since we are capable of sensing the hardness of alcohol with our senses, the difference between the taste of a hard whiskey and a light beer provides enough clues as to how the evening ends. It is not possible to talk about the same situation for most drugs. For example, the effects of the famous marijuana plant vary depending on the type and content used in production. It has long been known that different strains of marijuana contain varying proportions of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the basic psychoactive element of the plant.

The stunning effect and desire to eat with the use of marijuana are the effects of THC, which also causes paranoia. Cannabidiol, another component of the plant, is a calming and relaxing active ingredient. The cannabidiol ratio of THC in marijuana plays a key role in terms of the post-use effect. For example, the marijuana plant strain, known as common-type, has a much higher rate of THC than cannabidiol, which is considered to be of high quality among users.

An interesting study recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reveals that such high THC-rate plant strains have an extremely strong relationship with memory loss. The study team, guided by Valerie Curran of the University of London, was the home of 134 substance addict volunteers. Volunteers underwent a series of psychological tests that measure parameters such as anxiety, ability to remember and verbal fluency, in both sober and high states. After the tests, a piece of the substance used by the volunteer himself was taken to the laboratory for analysis.

The published results show that users of substances with high tetrahydrocannabinol have significant difficulty in recalling written texts when they are high compared to their sober situation. Researchers believe that an increased amount of cannabidiol in plant content reduces the negative effect of THC on memory formation. In other words, it has lost its negative effect on memory along with the quality of the drugs. Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, who has been investigating the effects of marijuana on patients since 1967, finds the results of the study conducted by Curran and his team very important. According to Grinspoon, the cannabis plant with high cannabidiol content is a much more attractive new alternative to the treatment of pain, contraction, and anxiety, as it does not cause exaggerated seizures by affecting the mind.

Further Information on Cannabis and Cannabis Addiction

I want to create awareness in the society about cannabis by touching on the important details that everyone generally knows wrongly. I will continue my article in the form of short and understandable questions and answers in order to convey the experiences of people who have received support for cannabis and drug addiction. Cannabis, weed, and marijuana are all definitions of psychoactive drugs derived from dried leaves and flowers of cannabis plants, expressing the same meaning in different words.

The most inaccurate information about cannabis is that it is considered a natural herb. Although you say, “I have bought and smoked the most expensive natural herb, and it is even less harmful than cigarettes”, unfortunately, according to market research, there are between 60 and 400 psychoactive chemicals in it, and the most important active ingredient of these is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When used, the amount of THC ingested determines the intensity of intoxication and the strength of the different types of cannabis is a result of the level of THC they contain. On average, the cannabis sold in many cans or packages contains THC between 5% and 30%.

What Is THC?

Although cannabis is said to be an innocent substance that is not addictive, there is both psychological and physical dependence. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical responsible for most of the psychological effects of cannabis. According to the National Drug Addiction Institute (NIDA), it acts as cannabinoid chemicals that are naturally produced by the body.

When you take a chemical that the body naturally produces using cannabis from outside, it produces a result that interacts in the parts of the brain that control thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and perception of time. It affects one’s memory, pleasure, movements, thoughts, concentration, coordination, sense, and perception of time.

Harms of Cannabis

  • The earlier the age of cannabis onset, the more damage the cannabis will cause on the brain. For example, the damage between adolescents starting to use cannabis at the age of 14-15 and the individuals starting to use cannabis for the first time after the age of 25 will be different. Developing early individuals suffer much higher damage than adults.
  • Cannabis smoke irritates the lungs, so people who consume cannabis often have breathing problems, persistent cough, sputum, or bronchitis. These people are at high risk for lung diseases.
  • Because cannabis increases heart rate, these people are also at greater risk of a heart attack.
  • Psychological disorders may also occur as a result of the long-term use of cannabis. These disorders may occur during cannabis use or after long-term cannabis use. Amotivational syndrome, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety disorders (panic attacks, etc.) and suicidal thoughts may occur.
  • Cannabis can cause transient symptoms such as hallucinations and paranoia in people who use it and may increase existing symptoms in patients with schizophrenia.
  • Cannabis is known to trigger the emergence of the disorder in people who are prone to any psychiatric disorder.

You can find numerous sources of cannabis harms like these, but I’m going to talk to you about a little less well-known damage that can actually make you aware that cannabis needs to be removed from your life, even for that reason alone.

We sleep in three different waves during the night. Light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. This rapid wave of sleep that is originated from deep brain structures and that includes rapid eye movements, called REM sleep, lasts for about 2 hours every night. We often dream in REM sleep. It was observed that individuals who were awakened during REM sleep and who had REM deprivation had more anxiety, irritability, intolerance, and difficulty concentrating the next day. According to some studies, if REM sleep is suppressed, it is difficult to learn new information and to recall information about the previous day. Physical skills weaken. Babies in the age of developing physical and mental skills experience REM sleep as high as 50%. This rate decreases to 25% in adulthood and 15% in old age. The need for REM sleep decreases with age.

Why did I tell you about REM sleep, yeah, here’s the crucial point! Cannabis smokers only sleep in the deep sleep phase due to THC substance and other psychoactive chemicals and can hardly have a dream and cannot switch to REM sleep. Imagine now that you are young, you are in the age of development and you are deeply sleeping with the effect of cannabis without ever going into REM sleep. If you are going to school, you can understand better now as a scientifically proven fact that why do your lecture notes fall after you start using cannabis, why you can’t focus your attention, give late reactions and why you don’t want to do anything.

Effects of Cannabis Use and Treatment Methods

In this part of our article, we will talk about the effects of cannabis use and treatment methods. With cannabis use, over-stimulation of the endogenous cannabinoid system causes changes in the brain that can lead to dependence in the process. In such a situation, the person starts to determine his priorities according to cannabis and causes negativity in his life, but cannot prevent his use.

Physical effects of cannabis use include:

• Dry mouth,
• Enlarged pupils and reddening of eyes
• Increased heart rate, blood pressure change, muscular relaxation
• Movement disorders and dizziness (especially when getting up)
• Decreased body temperature (cold feeling)
• Circulatory problems and vomiting (in case of a bad trip)

The psychological effects of cannabis use include:

• Differentiation of consciousness, hypersensitivity to light and music
• Cheerfulness, irresistible desire to speak and laugh (in case of a good trip)
• Relaxation, calming, feeling light (in case of a good trip)
• Deterioration of time perception, reduction of reaction time
• Attention and concentration problems
• Anxiety, panic, restlessness, loss of mind (in case of a bad trip)

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms:

Especially in the first two weeks after quitting, cannabis users can experience symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, tremor, sweating, fever, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, digestive system problems (such as diarrhea or constipation), unstable mood, susceptibility and so on. As some users experience mild symptoms of physical deprivation (sometimes associated with depression) when cannabis is discontinued, these symptoms can be overlooked by the user. However, craving is often seen that users often refer to as “habit” or “psychological dependence”, ie intense desire for reuse. Contrary to popular belief, this situation is as biological as physical withdrawal symptoms.

Use of Cannabis with Other Drugs

Cannabinoid receptors in the brain are more intense in areas of the brain responsible for functions such as pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensation, time, perception, and motor movement. Therefore, cannabis has the most effect on these areas. Cannabis causes increased heart rate, drop in blood pressure and muscle relaxation within half an hour of smoking. Redness of the eyes, dry mouth, overheating or chills occur. After a while, deceleration in time and disturbances in sensory perception (especially exaggerated perception) occur. Memory and learning weaken, thinking and problem-solving speed slows down. The person relaxes physically and the coordination is disrupted. An extreme state of joy occurs, characterized by laughter crises. People can talk a lot compared to normal. An increased appetite (in particular, craving sugary foods) can be observed.

Occasionally, these symptoms may be accompanied by intense negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, restlessness, or depression. The intensity of these emotions differs depending on the dose, the way of use and the mood of the person. Some people may experience permanent numbness, emotional imbalance, disruption of motor movements, and chest tightness, which may also be experienced when not using the substance.

The duration of the effect of cannabis varies according to the amount and form of use. In cigarette use, the effect lasts for an average of 3 hours. Contrary to the belief, when the effect period expires, the substance is not removed from the body quickly. Especially in the UK, young people trying to counterbalance psychosomatic effects such as paranoia, social phobia, panic attacks and insecurity caused by the use of cannabis with the easily accessible fake Xanax depression drug are being pulled into the grip of a much heavier addiction unconsciously, breaking away from social life and having major problems in their education lives. With the mixture of marijuana and Zanax (both fake and original), users who cannot think, make decisions or want to do anything, break away from reality with time and face situations that may cost them heavily.

The treatment of cannabis addiction includes, as in other substances, the removal of the person from the substance, reduction of withdrawal symptoms, prevention of relapse, treatment of possible psychological disorders accompanying the addiction, the elimination of vital problems that may trigger the use and gaining the ability to cope with emotions in a healthy way. All of these studies are planned according to the individual’s usage history and personal tendencies and needs.

Taking a person’s dependence is like taking a big piece of him/herself and the missing part must be filled with healthy counterparts. Otherwise, after a while, the person may lose his motivation to go back to his old habit. Psychotherapy is one of the cornerstones of permanent recovery so that one can access his / her internal resources and acquire new vital skills.

Treatment of Cannabis Addiction

The treatment of cannabis addiction includes, as in other substances, the removal of the person from the substance, reduction of withdrawal symptoms, prevention of relapse, treatment of possible psychological disorders accompanying the addiction, the elimination of vital problems that may trigger the use and gaining the ability to cope with emotions in a healthy way. All of these studies are planned according to the individual’s usage history and personal tendencies and needs.

Stopping use alone is not adequate treatment. Every addiction has gaps in one’s life. As the disease becomes chronic, the areas filled by addiction expand by swallowing all the other resources that a person feeds, such as a black hole. Taking the dependency of a person in such a situation is like taking a big piece of his self. The broken piece must be filled with healthy counterparts. Otherwise, after a while, the person may lose his motivation to go back to his old habit. Psychotherapy is one of the cornerstones of permanent recovery so that one can access his / her internal resources and acquire new vital skills.

Can Cannabis Be Useful?

Cannabis has been used in the medical field in the past centuries for the treatment of migraine, hemorrhages, births, and diseases such as epilepsy due to its pain-relieving and relaxing effects.

Currently, there is some research on the effectiveness of cannabis in the treatment of cancer-induced chronic pain, loss of appetite and nausea. Similarly, some research findings have shown that cannabis use improves AIDS-related weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea and general mood. The positive effects of cannabis on sleep disorders, multiple sclerosis, premenstrual syndrome, mood disorders, and opioid withdrawal symptoms have also been found in some studies.

Of course, the use of cannabis in the medical field is not meant to be regular use of cigarettes. Optimum doses are being used under the supervision of a doctor over a period of time, in particular as an alternative treatment for the side effects of various diseases.

Despite all this, there have not been enough studies on medical use yet. The long-term effects of cannabis use in diseases are not yet known. Currently, the addictive effect of cannabis remains a risk factor.

Best Books About Cannabis That You Can Buy Online

  • Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence by Alex Berenson (Price: $15.99)

  • The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis by Julie Holland M.D. (Price: $15.99)

  • Medical Cannabis: A Guide for Patients, Practitioners, and Caregivers by Michael H Moskowitz MD (Price: $20.04)

  • Cannabis as Medicine by Betty Wedman St Louis (Price: $62.14)

  • The Little Black Book of Marijuana: The Essential Guide to the World of Cannabis by Steve Elliott (Price: $9.95)

Savaş Ateş

I like cannabis. I read a lot about cannabis usage in the medical field. I researched a lot about planting it. I have started a cannabis business and i want to share my experiences with you.

Recent Posts