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By Boris M | 10 March, 2020 Published in Guides
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Over the years, there have been signs of an increase in the use of cannabis.

While it is not as dangerous as other drugs, dependency on cannabis is still a common concern in many countries and communities today.

Many people are advocating for the legalization of cannabis. Arguably, it’s on par with alcohol in terms of how much harm it can cause to the body.

That being said, it can also cause a lot of the same addiction problems as other legal substances. Many of the people who would become addicted to alcohol are just as likely to become addicted to cannabis.

Understanding the addiction to cannabis

Many people believe cannabis is harmless and that prolonged use over a long period of time will not cause any damage. This just isn’t true.

Like many other controlled substances, abusing cannabis can cause very real damage to your brain and body.

If your partner frequently uses cannabis and you believe it’s having a negative effect on your relationship as well as their body, this article will help you learn about cannabis addiction as well as ways to help your partner seek help.

While most people don’t become addicted to the drug itself, for some people, addiction is a very real possibility.

According to recent data, about 10 percent of people who use cannabis have developed some type of dependency to the class B drug [1] .

Furthermore, if someone starts using cannabis before adulthood, they’re up to seven times more likely to develop some type of dependency.

And unfortunately, only a small portion of users with dependency actually went to rehab or received some other type of treatment [2] .

Some signs of a growing addiction are the inability to control intake as well as increases intolerance, meaning they increasingly need more of the drug to feel its effect.

But who becomes addicted?

Unfortunately, genes can play a large part in the development of addiction. Studies have shown that even if two identical twins are raised apart in two entirely different families, the likelihood that both of them will develop a substance abuse problem if one develops an addiction is very high [3].

Responsibilities, or some kind of familial connection, can sometimes decrease the dependency on cannabis.

On the other hand, people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol tend to have fewer coping skills due to a difficult upbringing, few social connections, and not much that makes them happy.

Because of these factors, drugs such as cannabis become a sort of coping mechanism.

Mental health also plays a huge role in whether or not someone will develop an addiction to cannabis. In the beginning, the drug can work very well to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, but after a while, dependency can form due to increased tolerance.

Most people who are treated for cannabis addiction suffer from PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety.

Cannabis offers very real relief from the symptoms associated with all of these mental illnesses.

Cannabis has also been shown to have many benefits such as helping children with seizures or with nausea due to receiving chemotherapy; however, there have been many studies that show that cannabis isn’t a magic drug.

In people under the age of 25, cannabis can damage their brains.

Signs someone might be addicted to cannabis

There are several signs that someone you know might be addicted to cannabis. Here are just a few:

  • Possessing of rolling paper, pipes,
  • Frequently missing school or work
  • Using cannabis while driving, operating heavy machinery, or in other situations where it’s dangerous to do so
  • Has bloodshot eyes
  • Doesn’t care about personal hygiene
  • Has trouble balancing
  • Withdraws from family and friends when they were previously very close
  • Is indecisive
  • Has characteristically poor judgment
  • Struggles with keeping track of the time

If someone you know experiences several of these symptoms, it may be time to encourage them to seek treatment.

Misusing cannabis is risky

When smoking cannabis, you can experience a lot of strain on your heart.

Aside from just the tar or other dangerous chemicals found in cannabis while smoking it, your heartbeat can jump to up to 120 beats a minute.

When used and abused consistently, cannabis can lead to a possible stroke or heart attack.

The risk is especially high if you’re already older and you’ve been diagnosed with heart problems.

Cannabis can also cause hallucinations. While these are not as strong as using LSD or other, harder drugs, these effects make actions such as driving or operating heavy machinery dangerous.

This is why it’s illegal to drive while under the influence. Many people have also noticed feelings of depression or paranoia.

Common misconceptions about cannabis consumption

There are many common misconceptions that have been repeated over and over about cannabis.

Here are some of them and why they aren’t exactly true:

  • It’s a completely natural drug

One of the most common reasons people advocate the use of cannabis as opposed to other drugs is because it comes from a plant, and is therefore perceived as ‘more natural.’

While cannabis does come from a plant, the form that many people smoke is provided by dealers who are only interested in making their strain as potent as possible.

They will frequently put chemical compounds such as Cannabinoids into the cannabis they’re selling. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, affects the neurotransmitter in your brain called dopamine. Prolonged use is therefore disruptive of this natural system.

Because many of these dealers are selling in shady places, they don’t have to reveal what is in their cannabis or whether it is chemically pure in the first place. There is no way of knowing whether cannabis bought off the street is truly natural.

  • There’s no harm taking it

Cannabis has been in the cultural spotlight since about the 1960s. People have been consuming TV shows, songs, and artwork about how great cannabis is since then.

Many people see that people haven’t experienced any negative side effects from cannabis use after all these years, but the strains from the 60s aren’t nearly as strong as they are now.

Several studies have shown that compared to THC levels in cannabis from the 60s or 70s, today’s cannabis’s THC content is over 7 times stronger.

The claim that “cannabis in the 70s wasn’t dangerous, so cannabis today isn’t dangerous” isn’t valid since they’re not even the same drug anymore.

  • Effects are only temporary

Many people believe the effects of cannabis will wear off after a while.

Unfortunately, studies done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have revealed that cannabis can cause very permanent damage to someone’s memory.

Even if someone quits using cannabis, the damage inflicted never goes away [4] .

Long term use of cannabis can cause memory loss, reduced dopamine production, and chronic use is even associated with the risk of developing testicular cancer [5]

  • You can’t get addicted

Many people claim that because cannabis doesn’t cause a change in the brain that leads to addiction, it can’t be addictive.

Many believe that even someone who uses the drug daily can quit whenever they want to, but this just isn’t true.

Cannabis does cause chemical changes and these changes can lead to addiction.

If someone begins using cannabis as an adult, there’s a little less than a ten percent chance they’ll develop an addiction.

If someone begins using this drug as a teenager, they’re at a sixteen percent higher chance of developing an addiction.

After a while, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms become worse until a full-blown dependency develops.

How cannabis can affect relationships with others

When someone frequently smokes cannabis, they’re disconnected from their lives and relationships.

Dysfunctional couples who depend on cannabis consumption never actually develop close relationships with each other.

Cannabis addiction and abuse can cause someone to act selfishly and not communicate properly with their partner or spouse.

While it may not seem like it would be that much of a problem, cannabis dependence, and addiction seriously harm relationships.

When you should intervene

If someone is taking cannabis frequently and they act aimless or the drug has completely overtaken their life, it’s time to intervene.

If someone can still hold a job and your relationship is largely unaffected, you probably don’t need to step in.

But most of the time, you can’t just talk them into giving up the drug. This will mostly lead to broken promises and relapse.

If you want to convince your loved one to seek treatment, find an intervention program online and get in contact with them.

You can also examine your own behaviours and try to change any behaviours that are enabling your loved one.

Withdrawal symptoms

When someone finally decides to kick their habit, they will undoubtedly experience withdrawal symptoms. Some common symptoms are:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Becoming irritable
  • Changes in mood
  • Problems with your stomach
  • Feelings of depression
  • Occasionally breaking out into cold sweats.

While the severity of these symptoms can vary, they are unpleasant regardless.

If you’ve been using cannabis for a very long time, your withdrawal symptoms are going to last longer than someone who hasn’t been using it for as long.

Supporting your loved one without enabling them

When attempting to convince someone to seek treatment for their addiction, you can help remind them what life was like before they became addicted.

Compare their behaviour now versus when they first started smoking cannabis.

Likely, they had many dreams that they abandoned once they became dependent. Encourage your loved one by telling them that those dreams aren’t completely gone if they quit smoking.

But you will have to set boundaries. Your loved one can’t spend time with friends that use or smell cannabis.

That makes relapse a lot easier. You will have to employ a bit of tough love if you want them to truly recover.

How to help them find treatment

When you approach your loved one, avoid blaming them for their addiction.

Focus on reminding them about the negative consequences their addiction has already caused and let them know that you love them and want to help them find help.

If they’re not quite ready to seek treatment, don’t get angry or beg them to seek treatment. Wait a little while and then ask them again if they’re willing to get treatment.

Here are some of the different types of treatment they can go through to recover from their addiction:

1.  Contingency management

Also known as motivation incentives. This treatment provides rewards for good behaviour such as a clean result on random drug tests and deterrents for engaging in negative behaviour.

This is a flexible type of treatment and can be used by itself or with other types of treatment.

2. CBT

Created to treat issues such as substance abuse, cognitive behavioural therapy aims to help clients create different coping mechanisms other than turning to their drug of choice.

Any skills developed during this type of therapy tend to carry over to life after therapy.

3. Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This type of therapy aims to motivate someone addicted to drugs or alcohol to change these habits.

Many people with addictions do not want to give up their addiction even if they logically know continuing it will only make them feel worse.

MET aims to help people feel excited about overcoming their addiction and bettering their lives.

4. Twleve-step programs

Modelled off of the 12 step program popularised by Alcoholics Anonymous, the following steps are as follows:

1.  Someone addicted to cannabis admits they have an addiction and that it’s ruining their life

2. Come to believe someone greater than themselves can help them overcome this addiction

3. Become a follower of God

4. Evaluate their life and shortcomings

5. Admit to God, others, and themselves that their addiction is wrong

6. Become ready to have God help them overcome their addiction

7. Ask God to help remove their addiction or things causing it

8. Make a list of everyone that’s been harmed by the addiction and vow to make it up to them

9. Make it up to these people directly and as often as possible unless it will personally hurt the person making amends

10. Acknowledge wrongdoings whenever they occur

11. Use prayer and meditation to become closer to God

12. Once free of cannabis, vow to help other addicts overcome their addiction

How long does it take cannabis to leave the system?

Like alcohol, there are several factors that affect how long it takes for cannabis to leave a person’s body. Some of the most common factors include:

  • How often someone smokes cannabis
  • How sensitive the drug test is
  • The amount of fat on a person

Unlike alcohol, cannabis stays in the system for a very long time. Traces of THC can be detected in hair, blood, or urine samples for up to several days after initial use if it’s someone’s first time smoking.

If the person uses cannabis a few times a week, it can take up to a week to leave the system. If someone smokes every day, it could take as long as a month or more.

What if someone can’t get sober?

If someone can’t quit the drug on their own, they may need to be admitted into rehab. Out of everyone who has a drug addiction, only about ten percent of people actually get treatment.

If you think someone close to you is addicted to cannabis, use the intervention methods detailed above and help them check into a rehab facility.

Never blame yourself for someone’s addiction

No matter how hard you try to help your loved one, they will most likely struggle with overcoming their addiction.

No matter how much they struggle or how angry they get at you, never blame yourself for their addiction. While your loved one is struggling, it’s not your fault that you want them to get better.

But do keep in mind that you need to treat your loved one with the same amount of love and care you treat yourself if you want them to recover.

References

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/cannabis-the-facts/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/cannabis-the-facts/

[3] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain

[4] https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/what-we-do/nih-almanac/national-institute-drug-abuse-nida

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26560314

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