Categories: Cannabis

Can You Get Addicted to Cannabis?

There is a lot of ambiguity associated with “addiction”, whether of cannabis or anything else. Addiction is commonly described as a chemical dependence that can lead to withdrawal symptoms that one may have never experienced personally. However, some describe it as a psychological manifestation that tends to produce pleasurable responses in the brain, examples being gambling, sex, food, etc.

According to Roger Roffman, Professor Emeritus of Social Work at the University of Washington, a more standardized definition would be that a combination of biological and psychological factors leads to addiction, which also contributes to the conditioned behavioral patterns that can prove to show difficulty to stop or resist. Some typical behavior symptoms of addiction would include the following –

  • Inability to stop the use of substances
  • Abuse of substances, despite significant health issues
  • Overdose
  • Denial
  • Irresponsibilities and difficulties regarding finance
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities
  • Disease or damage caused by the use of a substance
  • A significant change in appearance
  • Lack of sleep

However, an important point is that a typical cannabis consumer would not usually have these symptoms align with his behavior. Despite the psychological components of cannabis, the dependency that eventually leads to negative life-altering changes is rare.

Author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Johann Hari’s definition of addiction, focuses on the environment over biology. Hari states that humans bond with the people around them due to their innate need for bonding and connection, which also provides them a sense of relief when they are facing isolation and are traumatized. Hari added that the path of unhealthy bonds in an attempt to be connected shows that addiction is merely a symptom of the crisis of disconnection.

Cannabis addiction is not commonly heard of in scientific and medical communities. Instead, the term “cannabis use disorder (CUD)” is used, which is a condition that is listed in the official manual of psychiatric diagnostics – the DSM-V. Here are the 10 symptoms of cannabis use disorder –

  • Large amounts of cannabis are taken for longer periods
  • Constant desire followed by unsuccessful attempts of controlling cannabis use
  • A great portion of time is dedicated in n activities concerning the use of cannabis – to obtain, use or recover from its effects.
  • Increasing urges to use cannabis
  • Repetitive use of cannabis leads to failure of other obligations such as work, school or home.
  • Persistent social or interpersonal problems due to the continued use of cannabis and exacerbation by the effects of cannabis.
  • Reduction or end of important social, occupational or recreational activities due to cannabis use
  • Repetitive cannabis use in physically hazardous situations
  • Continuation of cannabis use despite, recurrent physical or psychological problems
  • Cannabis is taken for relief from withdrawal symptoms

However, genetic and environmental causes, along with mental health conditions, can be huge risk factors for addiction. Initially, cannabis may prove to be beneficial especially for patients with underlying mental health conditions, by soothing anxiety, and especially shutting down ream formation in the brain for PTSD patients dealing with nightmares.

Legalization and addiction –

31 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws regarding the legalization of cannabis. Furthermore, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis.

While the United States’ solution to drug abuse and addiction is criminalization, most Americans are aware that this approach is not helpful, and can only worsen the situation. The prohibition of cannabis creates a social environment with increasing difficulty in recovery. However, it is easier to claim the lack of information regarding risks of cannabis when confronted about legalization if there are legal restrictions over research.

Saher Asad Mir

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