Spotting the Signs of Cannabis Addiction
When people think of substance addiction, they tend to think of drugs like cocaine, crack and heroin, but not usually cannabis addiction. It is true that these first three drugs harm users faster. However, for people with substance abuse disorder, any drug can bring them to their knees.
Cannabis is no exception. People who become addicted to cannabis may spend all their money on the drug, are not be able to function without it, and struggle to get off it. Users also encounter a host of physical and mental health problems when they compulsively smoke cannabis.
Read on to find out the signs of cannabis addiction, why people get addicted to cannabis, the damage that it can do, and how to get help if you are addicted to cannabis.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a plant that is native to Central and South Asia. People around the world have used it for centuries for its medicinal and recreational properties. In the UK, cannabis is classified as a class B drug. Cannabis is still illegal under federal law, but some states have legalised it for medical or recreational use.
The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is responsible for the “high” that people experience when using cannabis. More than 100 other cannabinoids in the plant contribute towards the high.
There are different ways to use cannabis. It can be smoked, vaporised, ingested in food or drink, or used as an extract. The effects of cannabis depend on the strength and amount of THC that users consume.
Cannabis has a range of potential medical benefits. Users take it to relieve pain, nausea, and vomiting associated with certain medical conditions like cancer and AIDS. Cannabis has also been shown to improve appetite and sleep in people with these conditions. Some studies have suggested that cannabis may help reduce inflammation, reduce seizures and improve symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Cannabis can also have risks and side effects.
Short-term side effects of cannabis include:
- impaired memory
- altered and heightened senses
- slurred speech
- increased appetite (known as the munchies)
- delayed reaction times
Long-term side effects include risks to mental health, such as addiction and psychosis. Smoking high potency cannabis daily increases the risk of developing psychosis by almost 5 times.
Signs of cannabis addiction
Everyone knows the signs of someone who smokes cannabis. Red eyes, sleeping a lot, holes in clothes and slowed-down thinking are all indicative of cannabis use.
The signs of cannabis addiction are a little different though. Someone who is addicted to cannabis may constantly be asking to borrow money from you. They may start missing commitments. They could be showing signs of mental illness and constantly smell of cannabis fumes.
You may simply feel that something is off with them, and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
The truth is that some people are very good at hiding their substance addiction. Cannabis is no exception. For this reason, it may be difficult to know for sure if your loved one is addicted to cannabis.
Cannabis addiction often starts off in a fairly benign way. Many people start smoking the drug with friends on weekends while watching movies or playing computer games. For most people, this is as far as their cannabis use goes.
For people who are susceptible to addiction, though, this is just the start of their cannabis use. If you have addiction, drugs like cannabis have a much greater pull, which can lead to trouble.
These people may start smoking with friends on weekends, but then find they want to smoke at the end of the week, too. This leads them to call the dealer and buy a small amount on Thursday evening. This pattern continues for a while, before they decide they want to smoke mid-week too.
Before they have a chance to pause, this person is then smoking every day of the week. Tolerance kicks in and the amount they smoke goes up. The amount they are spending on the drug also increases, and they start needing cannabis to function.
At this point, the user is dependent on the drug. They may need it to sleep, eat, or carry out their daily tasks. If they don’t have it, they feel anxious, irritable, restless and depressed.
Meanwhile, the side effects of consistent cannabis use come in to play. Their physical health suffers as they develop a chronic cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Their mental health also deteriorates as levels of paranoia rise.
For most people, when these negative aspects of cannabis use become more prominent, they think about quitting. For someone with cannabis addiction, though, it sometimes takes more extreme problems for them to consider giving it up.
Why do people get addicted to cannabis?
Users get hooked on cannabis for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few examples:
- Helps to relax them
- Alleviates depression
- Allieviates some pain conditions
- Helps them sleep
- Reduces symptoms of PTSD
- Blocks out difficult thoughts and emotions
- Helps them to deal with life
Unfortunately, though cannabis may help with these things in the short-term, cannabis abuse tends to backfire. Someone who uses cannabis for relaxation might be even more stressed without it. A person who smokes cannabis to self-medicate for insomnia may find themselves unable to sleep without it. Someone smoking to reduce PTSD symptoms may find their issues worsen if they don’t have any cannabis. Cannabis is only a temporary fix, it works only for as long as the drug is in your system.
Getting help for cannabis addiction
If you have cannabis addiction, you may only feel compelled to get treatment if you face severe health consequences, or have a negative encounter with a dealer you owe money to. It doesn’t have to get this bad though, and you can take steps to change things at any time.
There are a number of actions that you can take if you are suffering with cannabis addiction.
Go to recovery meetings
There are recovery meetings globally that you can go to where you can find support from people with substance addiction problems.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA). NA is a fellowship of men and women who meet to share their experience, strength and hope about overcoming drug addiction. Members of NA go to meetings where they read literature and share their experiences. They all get a sponsor and go through the twelve steps, a recovery program first developed in AA.
- Marijuana Anonymous (MA). MA is a twelve-step fellowship specifically for people struggling with cannabis addiction. If you believe you are addicted to cannabis, you can answer the “twelve questions of marijuana anonymous”. These questions are on the MA website, and can help you to decide whether you are addicted. There are not many in person MA meetings in the UK, but there are online meetings, so you can attend wherever you are.
- SMART Recovery. This recovery program is non-secular, and uses an evidence-based approach to tackling addictions of all kinds. SMART Recovery has four fundamental principles. They are: building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and living a balanced life.
If you tell people that you will go to rehab for cannabis addiction, some may scoff. But cannabis addiction is a serious condition, and if left untreated can result in insanity, deep depression and despair.
If you have tried quitting cannabis but are unable to, going to rehab may be your best choice. You will go through detox first, which for cannabis may involve you taking some medication. The medication prescribed by a rehab doctor will help in the most acute stage of withdrawal, when you may be unable to sleep. It will also lessen feelings of anxiety and cravings for the drug.
After detoxing, you will move onto the next stage of the programme. Here, you will dig in to the roots of your cannabis addiction. You will look at why you started using and why you continued to use.
Both one on one sessions and group therapy are usually used in rehab. The first of these involves counselling. Different styles are used in different rehabs, though Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy are the most popular.
In group sessions, you will talk about your own experiences of addiction with other people. You will also be given the tools that you need to go on to live a life without using cannabis.
Long terms effects of cannabis addiction
Long term cannabis use leads to many different problems in your life. Your mental health, physical health, social health, relationships and finances can all be gravely affected.
Cannabis addiction and mental health problems
Cannabis can cause severe mental health problems. When you first encounter them, you may brush them away and believe they will go away. As time goes on, though, the mental side effects of cannabis addiction become more pronounced.
You will not be able to think as clearly. Wheras in the past, you may have been sharp and articulate, you may find that you have become much slower. Your work may suffer, and complicated tasks can become more challenging.
Cannabis also affects your memory. You will not be able to remember words as quickly and may forget having met someone. You might struggle with remembering directions that would have been no problem previously.
Cannabis also causes anxiety and depression. You could find social occasions intimidating without smoking beforehand. You may find that you cannot be happy when you are not stoned. After a while, you may still be unhappy no matter how much you smoke, plunging you into a state of constant depression.
Disorders like psychosis and schizophrenia can also be triggered during cannabis addiction. Psychosis can be treated, and people usually recover from it. Schizophrenia can also be treated using medication, but is considered a life-long illness.
Cannabis addiction and physical health problems
Cannabis doesn’t just cause problems with your mind, it also affects the functioning of your body. The kind of deep inhale smoking associated with cannabis use is more damaging to the lungs than inhaling cigarettes when users combine cannabis with tobacco. With consistent use, users lung functioning becomes impaired. Habitual cannabis users can also develop a chesty cough.
Smoking cannabis with tobacco can also cause cancer, heart disease and problems with the cardiovascular system. Damage becomes worse when users add tobacco, but cannabis can cause health problems when users smoke it by itself.
Cannabis addiction and relationship problems
Constantly smoking cannabis and engaging in activities to get cannabis can cause severe relationship issues.
Relationships with friends may become strained as they grow tired of you being constantly high and forgetful. When this happens, you may start only associating with people who smoke cannabis habitually. At some point, you may even stop socialising altogether. Isolating is one of the hallmarks of most addictions.
Your romantic relationships may also suffer. Partners can grow bored of someone who gets stoned all the time, as you lose the ability to communicate. They may put up with it for a time, but eventually, most partners will throw in the towel. This can lead to even greater use of cannabis, as you attempt to numb the pain of a relationship break up by smoking more.
Your family relationships can get impacted when you are addicted to cannabis. You may begin skipping family functions, and cannot meet the responsibilities expected of you as a family member.
These are all connections you can heal as part of the recovery process. It may not happen overnight, though. It can take time for people to trust you again, and for them to acknowledge that you are taking steps to make amends for your previous behaviour. Working a complete programme of recovery will help to rebuild bridges.
Cannabis addiction and financial problems
Cannabis addiction does not just come with mental health, physical and relationship costs. There is also a financial price to pay.
When someone is a casual user of cannabis, they may spend ten or twenty pounds on the drug. This may be enough for a few spliffs smoked over a week. Someone who is addicted to cannabis spends far more. Amounts of hundreds of pounds per week are common.
When someone spends this much on cannabis per week, their finances are severely affected. They may start getting cannabis from drug dealers on tick. They might begin engaging in illegal behaviour themselves as a way of getting more money for the drug.
These decisions come with their own price. Someone who owes money to a drug dealer might find themselves at the receiving end of threats of violence or of actual violence.
Someone who starts committing crimes to pay for cannabis may end up with a criminal record. They might even go to jail if committed of a serious crime.
If you have found yourself in financial difficulties due to cannabis consumption, you almost certainly have a cannabis addiction. Take steps now to remedy your situation.
Help for cannabis addiction
While some people consider cannabis a “mild” addiction, the reality is that cannabis addiction ruins lives. Habitual cannabis use affects every aspect of your life. People have lost everything due to their cannabis addiction.
The good news is that there are solutions. If you cannot stop using cannabis, consider going to a recovery group or attending rehab. These can both help get you on the road to recovery.
You can also use our platform to access online recovery meetings, connect with like-minded others and learn more about the illness of addiction. Our Wellness hub also offers a plethora of evidence based methods of treatment led by qualified professionals. All it takes is the willingness to stop and the correct help and support. You too could become cannabis free|
Narcotics Anonymous: What it is and who needs Narcotics Anonymous
Understanding addiction: Why connection is vital to healing the addicted brain