A staggering fourteen million people have used cannabis in the UK, making it the most popular illicit drug. While not everyone who uses cannabis will become addicted, 11% of users will develop a cannabis addiction, with that figure rising to 16% if you used cannabis as a teen.
On this page, we explore what cannabis is, define marijuana abuse and explain how cannabis addiction develops. Additionally, we will study the health risks of cannabis addiction, the signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction to look out for, and how to get support.
A closer look at marijuana addiction
Cannabis (also known as marijuana) is often called a “gateway” drug, which refers to it popularly being the first drug people try before going on to try other illegal drugs. This might be true; however, the dangers of cannabis addiction should be recognised in its own right.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a Class B illegal substance, which the UK government outlawed in 1928. The active chemical in cannabis is called THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is another cannabinoid found in cannabis, which is thought to negate some of the effects of THC.
Cannabis is popularly consumed to release the psychoactive effects of THC. The psychoactive forms of cannabis are mainly hash oil, hashish and marijuana.
Mind altering effects of cannabis
When consuming cannabis, THC is introduced to your brain, which is then able to attach itself to molecules called cannabinoid receptors. Once attached, it will start to disrupt mental and physical functions, largely affecting brain areas that control pleasure, coordination, perception of time and concentration.
Cannabis affects each individual differently, although some common effects include feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Additionally, you might become talkative or giddy and you’ll find everything very funny. Alternatively, you might experience negative reactions, such as paranoia and hallucinations, which will lead to an agitated state.
Defining cannabis addiction
Cannabis addiction is induced through continued cannabis abuse over a long period. When you increase the strength of cannabis and start using more effective methods of delivery, your cannabis addiction will progress exponentially. Cannabis abusers will continue to use the substance despite knowing the dangers of doing so.
The development of cannabis addiction
Cannabis increases the production of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in control of pleasure and reward feelings. With excess dopamine in your system, you will feel compelled to abuse cannabis to prolong its effects.
Continued marijuana abuse will lead to the development of a cannabis tolerance, meaning you have to consume more cannabis for it to have the same effect as before.
As your brain continues to adapt to the excess dopamine introduced by cannabis abuse, you might become psychologically dependent and experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit cannabis use.
DID YOU KNOW…
Cannabis is responsible for 30% of all admissions into addiction treatment in the EU.
The health risks of cannabis addiction
Cannabis can immediately increase your heart rate and blood pressure after a single use. Furthermore, it can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and other vascular diseases. These health risks are primarily linked to users who smoke marijuana.
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- Joints (hand-rolled cigarettes)
- Bongs (water pipes)
- Blunts (cigars or cigar wrappers filled with cannabis)
Regardless of how cannabis is smoked, it will harm your lung tissues by scarring and damaging the small blood vessels. Cannabis smoke acts much like tobacco smoke once it enters your system. Cannabis and tobacco smoke contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
Smoking cannabis also largely contributes to bronchitis, coughing and mucus production, although these symptoms can be avoided if you quit smoking cannabis.
Frequent high doses of cannabis can cause unpleasant disorientation, anxiety, depression, social anxiety and paranoia. Abusing cannabis places you at risk of developing temporary psychosis and schizophrenia, a long term mental disorder in which you see and hear things that aren’t real. You would be at higher risk of schizophrenia if you started abusing cannabis at a young age in high quantities.
Signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction
Cannabis addiction is a disorder which shares the same symptoms related to other, often perceived as more powerful, substances.
Cannabis addiction is a phenomenon where you cannot control consumption urges despite serious financial, emotional and physical consequences.