Rehab 4 Addiction

Although cannabis is usually smoked, it also comes in many other forms. Since CBD strains became legal in the UK, CBD oil is often spotted on shop shelves throughout the country.

In 2019, of the people who used cannabis to ease symptoms of medical conditions, 55.9% used it daily.(1)

For people who are experimenting or regular users, gaining insight into cannabis is important. It’s useful to know more in terms of side effects, long-term effects, understanding safer practices (i.e. harm reduction), and what to do when an addiction develops.

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant. Some species of cannabis have psychoactive properties when ingested.

The active effects come from the cannabinoids in the plant, the two most commonly referred to are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

This plant was originally native to central and south Asia, but soon spread around the globe. In the past, it was mainly used for spiritual and medicinal practices.

Due to its psychoactive properties, it’s illegal to grow, possess and sell in many countries. However, due its therapeutic properties, some countries havelegalised it for medicinal use around pain and seizures.

There are three different species of cannabis plant: Sativa, Indica, and ruderalis.

The difference between Sativa, Indica, and ruderalis cannabis plants

Firstly, they look slightly different.Indica is known to have shorter, wider leaves and be a shorter, bushier plant while Sativa varieties have longer, thinner, lighter green leaves and are taller plants.

Indica is said to be more relaxing due to having higher levels of CBD, Sativa is more stimulating due to higher levels of THC.

Both indica and sativa have different strains, some of which are hybrids.

Cannabis sativa L is a sub-species of sativa commonly referred to as hemp. This plant is an excellent resource in terms of providing the raw material to create fabric, oil, fuel, and food (it’s high in protein; hemp-based products are often on the menu in vegan communities).

Ruderalis is more common in colder climates where it can grow in the wild. Ruderalis actually means “growing among waste”, it’s basically a weed. Its levels of cannabinoids are negligible.

Cannabis is also known as:

  • Herb
  • Chronic
  • Dope
  • Wacky-backy
  • Pot
  • Mary-Jane
  • Ganja
  • Weed
  • Skunk
  • Marijuana
  • Grass
  • Bush
  • Sensi (shortened from sensimilla)

Strains of cannabis

People might refer to the name of the cannabis strain when talking about it. There are hundreds of strains, common ones include haze and kush, both of which are available in different “flavours” i.e. blueberry, banana etc.

Synthetic cannabis

Synthetic cannabis, K2, or “spice” is a type of man-made/”designer” drug. It’s made as an oil or solid and is added to plant material to make it look like the natural plant. Synthetic cannabis works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that cannabis does.

Due to it being much stronger than natural cannabis, it’s incredibly addictive and can also create a physical dependency (as can happen with heroin and alcohol users).

This substance has serious and dangerous effects, even resulting in kidney damage and seizures. For some, the effects of synthetic cannabis have been fatal.

Interestingly, although many synthetic variations are a class B in the UK, in the U.S, variations are placed in schedule I (the same category as heroin and crack cocaine).

The different forms of cannabis

All of these forms can have a psychoactive effect if they’re made from THC strains of cannabis. Those with CBD strains won’t experience a high or any hallucinatory effects. They might feel very relaxed and sleepy from CBD strains, though.

People who are concerned about the toxic chemicals that are released from cannabis and tobacco tend to avoid smoking and vaping, opting instead for oil, tea, or edibles.

Cannabis can be ingested through:

  • Smoking.
  • Inhaling.
  • Absorption under the tongue.
  • Eating.
  • Drinking.

How do these different methods work? Well, its form will influence how it’s taken into the body. Users tend to have different preferences.

smoking cannabis

1. Leaves

Leaves and buds are usually ground and sprinkled into roll-ups to create a joint/spliff. Some people might put leaves and buds into vaporisers.

2. Hash/hashish

Hash is made from the secreted resin of the plant. It’s usually considered to be stronger than leaves and bud. The resin is extracted, dried and pressed. It’s usually sold in chunks.

Hash isn’t as “messy” as leaves and also not as common as it was in the 1980/90s. Hash can be put in a joint or into edibles, hence the term “hash cookies”.

3. Tea

Some people might prefer to make cannabis tea from the leaves or buds. This absorbs into the body through the digestive system and can take around an hour to be felt.

4. Edibles

Edibles are usually made with ground leaves or buds, some people might use hash. This is put into various edible items to be eaten. Edibles include:

  • Sweets.
  • Cakes.
  • Cookies.
  • Ice cream.
  • Soup.
  • Butter (which can be used in most cooked foods).

5. Oil

There are different oils available. Some are runny, honey-coloured, and come in 10-20ml bottles with pipettes. Others are dark brown, thick, and come in syringes. The user places a drop under the tongue for it to absorb into the bloodstream.

CBD oils are available in supplement shops and chemists throughout the UK.

6. Spray

This is very similar to the oil just mentioned. The runny, honey-coloured oil comes in a 10-20ml bottle, but has a “spray” head (rather than a pipette). This is sprayed under the tongue.

7. Tincture

A cannabis tincture can be made using leaves and glycerin. This way it can be drunk. Some people might combine it with another drink or add in other ingredients so the musky, earthy flavour isn’t so potent.

8. Shatter

Shatter is made through extraction. It looks like honey-coloured glass. It’s brittle, hence the name. A solvent is run through the buds in order to extract the resin. It’s a highly flammable process and dangerous to create.

The shatter extracted is said to be anywhere around 80% in THC, hence, it’s much stronger than other forms. It’s usually smoked through a pipe (in a similar style to the way a person would smoke crack cocaine).

9. Honey butane oil

This is another extracted form of cannabis, which can also be around 80% in THC and therefore very strong. Butane is evaporated through the cannabis leaving a honey-like substance. It’s a highly flammable and dangerous process.

How cannabis affects you

As mentioned earlier, cannabis has psychoactive properties as well as active ingredients. These are what affect users when it is ingested.

People who use cannabis often seek desired effects, such as:

  • Relaxation.
  • Reduced anxiety.
  • Laughter.
  • Changes in time perception.
  • A “buzz”, high, or euphoria.
  • Increased sensitivity.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Increased appetite.

There are, however, negative effects that are increasingly common the longer people use cannabis:

  • Anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nightmares.

Some users experience hallucinations and cannabis is also linked to psychosis and schizophrenia. (2) This is especially the case where mental health issues run in the family.

The difference between THC and CBD strains of cannabis

THC is the psychoactive chemical that produces the “high” when it’s absorbed. This is also the chemical that is linked to anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, etc.

CBD on the other hand is not psychoactive. It does not make users or patients “high”. This is the active ingredient that relaxes people and is used in medicine to ease pain and seizures.

It’s important to note that when smoked, cannabis releases toxic chemicals. In the medical community, it’s usually given as a spray or oil.

Cannabis addiction

THC strains of cannabis can create an addiction due to the psychoactive properties in it that directly impact the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain.

Although many users usually seek it out as a way to relax, have fun, and sometimes aid sleep, it has very unhealthy negative effects taken in the long-term.

Users have an increased risk of mental health problems. Psychological withdrawal is also common. Symptoms include:

  • Mood swings and irritability.
  • Sleep disruption and nightmares.
  • Sweating.
  • Headaches.
  • Reduced concentration.
  • Depression.
  • Fluctuation in appetite.

Cannabis addiction treatment

There are many forms of treatment available for those addicted to cannabis. People are encouraged to think about what led to the addiction and how changes in lifestyle can support recovery.

Treatments for cannabis addiction usually incorporate:

  • Counselling.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • SMART recovery groups.
  • Art and music therapy.
  • New meaningful activities such as yoga, swimming, or tai chi.

Where a person uses more than one substance or has amental health problem, accessing rehabilitation programs is highly recommended.

Final thoughts…

Cannabis comes in many forms; leaves, hash, oil, shatter, etc. This means people are able to use a variety of ways to ingest it from smoking, to eating, to a drop under the tongue.

Some strains of cannabis are both addictive and have a psychoactive effect, whereas others do not. Although the substance is increasingly used in the medical field, it’s not always legal.

In the UK, CBD forms of cannabis are available.CBD is an active ingredient that does not make people high, which is why it’s sometimes used around symptoms of seizures and pain.

THC strains, however, cause a “high” and users are more likely to develop poor mental health.(3)

Many illegal cannabis users become addicted. Treatment is available in your local area. To find out what services you can access, contact Rehab 4 Addiction.







Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.