Addiction and marijuana

An addiction is defined as a ‘something which causes uncontrollable urges, wanting and using even if it results in physical and mental harm’.

If you repeatedly use something which has pleasurable effects on your mind and body then it can become increasingly difficult to stop. If you do try to stop using marijuana then you may find that you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which cause many people to start using again.

So, if we apply this statement to marijuana then it can be said to cause an addiction. Someone who uses marijuana on a regular basis and enjoys the experience of doing so will find it difficult to stop especially if their enjoyment increases each time.

Regular use of marijuana may not result in physical dependence but it can lead to psychological dependence which is particularly risky for people with mental illness.

There is evidence to show that heavy use of marijuana can worsen mental illness and may lead to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. If someone has schizophrenia then using marijuana may worsen the symptoms of this which may lead to a relapse.

(Source: Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs)

Factors which influence dependence

Whether someone becomes addicted to marijuana depends upon several factors which include:

  • Genetic predisposition to addictive behaviour
  • Length of time using marijuana
  • Amount of marijuana used
  • Type of marijuana, e.g. skunk

Everyone is different in regard to their reaction to a particular drug and some people are more likely to become dependent than others.

Someone who has been using marijuana for a short period of time only should find it easier to easier to give up than a long term user. But the factors mentioned above affect that to a certain extent.

Are there any other factors to consider?

Peer pressure is another factor especially for young people. If you are part of a group who use marijuana then it can very difficult to stop without feeling as if you are going against the group.

Young people especially have a strong need to be part of a group and will adopt the norms and behaviour of that group in order to fit in.

If using marijuana is part of that group then they may do the same in order to be accepted. Peer pressure plays a major part in adolescence and exerts a strong influence over a young person’s thoughts and actions.

The problem with continual use of marijuana over a long period of time is that it can lead to dependence. Heavy use of marijuana or smoking strong forms such as skunk or sinsemilla dominates the user’s life to the extent that they cannot function without it.

Signs of marijuana addiction

Some people exist in a permanent state of being ‘stoned’. They have become accustomed to the effects of marijuana and know exactly how much to use and how often to achieve this.

But what happens over time is that the user requires more and more marijuana to achieve their desired state. They feel that they are not in control unless they are using marijuana and will do anything they can to sustain this.

This means spending ever increasing amounts of money to finance their habit and allowing it to take control of their lives. This has negative consequences on their work/school/social life, family and friends.

So what should you look for?

Sings of a marijuana addiction include:

  • Anger or frustration when not using marijuana or if none is available.
  • Finding ways to obtain money to purchase marijuana, e.g. working longer hours or turning to crime.
  • Constantly thinking about marijuana
  • Marijuana becomes the main focus in their life
  • Withdrawing from family and friends to spend increasing amounts of time with fellow users.
  • Denying that they have a problem

The chances are that they are unlikely to become physically dependent on marijuana but some people do become psychologically dependent.

Another factor is that the varieties of marijuana being used now are stronger than those used in the past. They contain higher levels of ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’(THC’s) which are the main ingredient that causes mind altering effects.

Withdrawal symptoms

It is very difficult to stop using marijuana if you have been a regular, long term user. Long term use causes the user to develop a tolerance to THC’s which results in withdrawal symptoms if the user stops using marijuana.

This often appears to be the case with people who smoke marijuana.

These people find that they experience a range of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms which are unpleasant to deal with and affect their day to day lives.

Common symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors/shakes
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains

Experts believe that the availability of strong forms of marijuana such as skunk increases the risk of addiction in certain groups of people.

Smokers who use marijuana with tobacco as a ‘joint’are also at risk of developing an addiction to nicotine as well as marijuana. This type of addiction causes serious damage to the health which includes lung cancer.

Effects of addiction on everyday life

Marijuana addiction can lead to problems at school or work (includes losing one’s job); family breakdown; health problems and trouble with the police.

Possessing marijuana for personal use or possession with intent to supply others carries a high penalty. The police will take action if you are caught with marijuana and this action will depend upon a number of factors, e.g. age.

It can result in a prison sentence which has a dramatic impact upon you and your family’s lives.

Note everyone who uses marijuana will become an addict but some people do. The ones that do will develop this if they have used marijuana over a long period of time.

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