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Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Cannabis?

Posted on July 12, 2022

Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Cannabis?

Cannabis is a substance often used for recreational purposes, but the ‘high’ that it creates can sometimes lead the brain to become dependent on it. Cannabis dependency is a condition that creates a range of complications for physical and mental health.

There are several factors that contribute to the development and likelihood of cannabis addiction. However, the condition is also very treatable.

Cannabis – can you get addicted?

Cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, is a substance many people smoke or ingest in order to feel ‘high’. It is associated with producing feelings of intense relaxation and calm, and there is a common misconception that it cannot trigger addiction.

Unfortunately, individuals can become addicted to cannabis if they use it on a frequent or excessive basis. This usually involves them not being able to cope without it, suffering both psychological and physical consequences when sober.

How cannabis dependency works

When an individual takes cannabis, the brain experiences intense feelings of pleasure, resulting from the release of a hormone called dopamine. This is more commonly referred to as a ‘high’, with individuals feeling relaxed and happy during it.

The brain is designed to remember substances that have produced positive sensations and feelings, and it, therefore, develops an association between cannabis and the ‘high’ it creates.

With more frequent use, this association grows stronger and stronger.

Over time, the brain goes from wanting cannabis in order to feel good to need it in order to function. It gets so used to its effects after so long that it craves it whenever it is sober, having become dependent on it.

Cannabis withdrawal

The brain becomes so used to cannabis that it eventually believes that it cannot function without it.

When sober, therefore, individuals can experience a range of withdrawal symptoms, including:

Individuals experience unbearable cravings when sober which act as their body and brain’s message for them to take cannabis and provide relief for these symptoms.

The signs of cannabis addiction

Spotting your own addictive behaviours can be very difficult. Individuals often don’t realise when their cannabis consumption has become unhealthy, and this tends to lead to their condition getting worse before it gets better.

Spotting the signs of cannabis addiction can help individuals get treatment sooner, and therefore make their recovery a much shorter and easier process.

As a result, those who consume cannabis should lookout for the following traits in their behaviour [1]:

  • Consuming cannabis more frequently or in higher quantities than intended
  • Using cannabis every day or for long periods of time
  • Not being able to stop using cannabis
  • Experiencing issues at school, work, or at home as a result of cannabis use
  • Driving under the influence of cannabis
  • Experiencing cravings for cannabis when sober
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed hobbies or activities, choosing to use cannabis instead
  • Using higher quantities of cannabis as time goes on to achieve the same ‘high’

These traits indicate when cannabis use has started to take a serious toll on an individual’s physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing. They also include traits that can potentially put others in danger.

If you notice any of them in your own behaviour or that of a friend who uses cannabis, you are strongly encouraged to seek addiction support.

Risk factors for cannabis addiction

Individuals develop cannabis addiction for a number of reasons. Rather than because of just one aspect of their behaviour or lifestyle, it is usually triggered by a combination of several factors.

1. Genetics

Individuals can be more at risk of developing cannabis dependency as a result of the biological traits they inherit from their parents.

Their genes can influence their tolerance to the drug, their brain chemistry, and their likelihood of experiencing withdrawal.

These aspects will have a huge impact on how an individual responds to cannabis consumption and other risk factors.

2. Socialisation

We learn to see the world a certain way as we grow up, and our perceptions of drug use can greatly impact how likely we are to consume and become addicted to them as adults.

Individuals who are raised to perceive cannabis as something to be regularly and normally consumed are much more likely to use it frequently and, as a result, become dependent on it.

These people are also more likely to use cannabis before the age of 18, which substantially increases their chances of developing an addiction to it as an adult [2].

3. Peer pressure

Friends and family can have a big influence on how we behave, and this also applies to how we interact with drugs like cannabis.

If an individual has friends who use cannabis regularly or parents that keep cannabis around the home, they may feel pressure to conform and follow suit.

These factors would probably take a person’s cannabis use to the extent that puts them at risk of becoming addicted.

4. Mental health

Sufferers of anxiety, depression, and trauma are more likely to use drugs like cannabis because of the ‘high’ they produce. Feeling calmer and happier can alleviate the symptoms of their mental health difficulties, providing them with much-needed relief.

This, however, can encourage them to use cannabis regularly to function, in turn leading them to develop a tolerance to the substance and need to take more and more of it in order to gain the same degree of relief.

It is known as a dual diagnosis when addiction develops in this way, and it is very common.

What are the risks of cannabis addiction?

Like many other addictive substances, cannabis can have a huge impact on physical and mental health if taken too much.

Addiction can put individuals at risk in many different ways, with potential effects including:

  • Cognitive difficulties, reduce an individual’s ability to concentrate, solve problems, and remember things
  • Fatigue and restlessness, sometimes developing into insomnia
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Intense anxiety and paranoia
  • Increased risk-taking and reckless behaviour
  • Increased social isolation

Treating cannabis addiction

While cannabis addiction can be dangerous, it is also very treatable. Even though getting professional help can be daunting for many people, it is the only effective way of tackling and overcoming dependency.

Treating cannabis addiction can come in several different forms. Individuals often begin with a detox process, ridding their body of the substance and establishing sobriety. What follows, in the case of cannabis recovery, is an essential period of therapy.

Behavioural therapy

Addictions to cannabis develop when individuals perceive its consumption as a way to feel good or, more often, handle certain triggers. This can include feelings of anxiety, periods of depression, or frequent sensations of feeling lost or unmotivated.

Therapy’s role is to help individuals recognise this pattern in their behaviour and notice what triggers their excessive cannabis use.

Depending on the style of therapy used, specific techniques are then practised to help individuals better handle triggers in the future. For example, in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), individuals are taught methods of interrupting harmful thought processes.

How can Rehab Recovery help?

At Rehab Recovery, we understand that cannabis addiction can be very scary and that getting treatment can seem like an impossible task.

Because of this, we are on hand to offer help and guidance with every step of the recovery journey. We can help you find effective treatment, walk you through what the process involves, and answer any questions that are on your mind.

If you are struggling with cannabis addiction, or you know someone who is, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Reach out and give us a call on 0800 088 66 86.




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