Rehab 4 Addiction

Doesn’t Everyone Smoke Cannabis?

You might think that, but no. Although not everyone smokes cannabis, it is still one of the most globally grown, transported, and abused drugs 

Of half of all the drugs seized worldwide, cannabis makes up 50%.  

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 2.5% of the global population (or 147 million people) consume cannabis annually.  

This past decade has seen massive growth in Cannabis consumption, with the swiftest growth in Western Europe, North America, and Australia since the 1960s. 

Low prices and ease of access are likely to have impacted this growth, with the elevated levels of abuse extending to teenagers and young adults.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana, also known as pot, weed, grass, herb, ganja, bud, or Mary Jane, is a drug derived from the Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa plant (otherwise known as the hemp plant).  

In the dried leaves and flowering shoots, you’ll find the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) chemicals that provide a psychotropic/mind-altering high.  

Is Recreational Marijuana Legal?

A small number of countries across the UK and American states have legalised recreational and medicinal cannabis. However, this illicit drug remains illegal in many countries globally and the UK 

But, from 1st November 2018, a law was passed letting specialist doctors prescribe medicinal cannabis when needed.

However, these expert doctors must agree that their patients could benefit from the medicinal marijuana treatment.  

How is Cannabis Used?

Frequent Marijuana users are often creative with their cannabis use. However, smoking is the most usual form of consumption in a hand-rolled joint, bong, or pipe.  

When lit, active chemicals are released from the plant and then into the smoke, you inhale.  

Of course, marijuana can be consumed in several other methods, which is perhaps one of the reasons for its popularity 

Those not keen on smoking may choose to consume cannabis as an edible. For example, people may choose brownies or cookies with cannabis baked inside.  

With vaping appearing to be the trend that won’t go away, there’s no surprise that some people choose to vape their recreational cannabis 

The vaporisation of cannabis works similarly to that of an e-cigarette. First, the vaporiser heats the marijuana, releasing a vapour. 

Cannabis vaping removes the toxic smoke from adding tobacco but keeps the THC and other cannabinoid chemicals. 

Although many people believe that this method of cannabis consumption is less dangerous than smoking, there is no evidence to prove this. What’s more, vaping can lead to acute lung injury.

What are the Signs of Cannabis Use?

Cannabis may affect one person differently from another. For example, the amount of cannabis consumed, what it contains (e.g., if any extra chemicals are included) and how frequently it is taken will have an impact. 

However, there are some general signs to look out for. The person may appear:

  • More talkative, or laughing more 
  • Extremely relaxed, happy, or chilled out 
  • Tired, sluggish, or drowsy 
  • Sick or vomiting 
  • Faint  
  • To have the ‘munchies’ due to hunger pangs 
  • Experiencing mild hallucinations 
  • Confused, paranoid or anxious 
  • To be suffering memory problems  

How Does Cannabis Affect the Brain? 

Depending on the consumption, cannabis starts in your lungs or stomach and moves to your brain and body through your blood. THC enters the brain.  

This THC cannabinoid binds to specific receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors, cells, or neurons, creating the psychotropic high. 

Usually, the brain would be activated by natural chemicals to create a communication network that tells the body what it enjoys. However, normal brain development and function can be severely affected with continued cannabis use. 

What is the difference between Recreational and Medical Cannabis Use?

Of course, there isn’t any technical difference between medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. Both drugs will contain cannabinoids like THC and have the same side effects on the body and brain.

How and why cannabis is used is the main difference.  

Recreational marijuana is illegal, classed as an illicit drug across most of the world, apart from some areas mentioned above.  

Recreational marijuana is used for the high it brings. Fun and relaxation is the main aim here.  

In contrast, specialist doctors prescribe medical marijuana to treat an array of severe and painful conditions, such as seizures, pain, chemotherapy, nausea, and vomiting.  

Although the research is limited, many people believe it aids their conditions.  

Is Cannabis Addictive?

Although cannabis users don’t always become addicted, frequent or, heavy cannabis use can lead to addiction 

Unfortunately, this addiction does not just include adults. Teens are becoming an increasing statistic of cannabis addiction 

Early or chronic cannabis use can lead to dependence, addiction, and withdrawal. A compulsive need to continue cannabis use (due to its effect on the brain) can lead to significant problems in a person’s family, work, or school life. 

When regular Cannabis users suddenly stop using cannabis, they may suffer moderate to intense withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include; 

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea  
  • Mood swings 
  • Feeling irritable 
  • Trouble eating  
  • Sweating and shaking  
  • Problems sleeping

Is Cannabis Safe? 

Perhaps, because cannabis doesn’t produce the intense high of other drugs or usually lead to fatal overdoses, people often assume that cannabis is safe 

The fact that cannabis is sometimes medically prescribed may also lead to this belief.  

In complete contrast, cannabis can severely affect a person’s health and personal life with heavy and extended use. 

Consuming copious quantities of cannabis over longer periods can have detrimental side effects, including problems with; 

  • Mood  
  • Memory problems or loss 
  • Coordination 
  • Judgement  
  • Poor reaction time 
  • Cognitive problems with thinking, learning and problem solving 
  • Social issues with family, work, or school

What are the harmful health risks of cannabis 

Unfortunately, smoking cannabis over the long-term put users at higher risk of tobacco-related diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer.  

Other risks of extensively using cannabis can include: 

  • Problems breathing, e.g., feeling out of breath or wheezy 
  • Worsening symptoms of asthma 
  • Suffering from an uncomfortable or painful cough 
  • Reducing the ability to operate machinery or the ability to drive 

Cocaine and Anxiety

Can Cannabis Affect your Mental Health? 

Regular cannabis consumption can also increase the risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. Those suffering a psychotic illness may hallucinate (see things that are not there) and become delusional (believe things that are not true). 

The chance of developing a psychotic illness is also higher in people who: 

  • Start using cannabis at an early age 
  • Smoke stronger types of cannabis, such as skunk 
  • Smoke cannabis regularly over a long time  
  • Those with a family history of schizophrenia 

Frequent cannabis also increases the risk of relapse in those already suffering from schizophrenia, making their psychotic symptoms worse. 

How does Cannabis Affect Pregnancy and Breastfeeding?

Cannabis consumption can have detrimental effects on fertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and pregnancy in general. 

For example, studies have shown a link between regular cannabis use and changes in the female menstrual cycle. In addition, a lower sperm count and sperm quality have also been suggested in men.  

Consuming cannabis can most certainly harm the unborn baby for several reasons when you become pregnant. For example, cannabis smoke often contains harmful chemicals from cigarette smoke. 

Research into cannabis use also suggests that using cannabis when pregnant could lead to the baby being born small or premature and affect a baby’s brain development as they age.  

THC can also enter breast milk, so it is never recommended to consume cannabis when breastfeeding 

Female fertility

Is There Help Available for Cannabis Addiction?

If you’re worried about the chronic cannabis use of a loved one, or yourself, trust that help is available 

A conversation with your doctor or your local drug support centre is an excellent place to start. The Frank website can help find a centre local to you. 

The doctor, support centre or rehab centre you choose to speak with can help you find the proper treatment for you.  

This treatment can often include counselling and psychotherapy to deal with negative behaviours and co-occurring mental health conditions. These therapies can consist of:

There aren’t any medications available to treat the withdrawal or addiction of cannabis. But you may be prescribed anti-depressants or other antipsychotic drugs to treat co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression. 

References

[1] Alcohol, Drugs, and Addictive Behaviours Unit. https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/alcohol-drugs-and-addictive-behaviours/drugs-psychoactive/cannabis 

[2] Marijuana Research Report, What is marijuana? https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana 

[3] Government announces that medicinal cannabis is legal  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-that-medicinal-cannabis-is-legal 

[4] Marijuana Research Report, What is marijuana? https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana 

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

[6] Marijuana, What is marijuana? https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana#topic-2 

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

boris

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.