Marijuana, also known by cannabis, weed, grass, shake, ganja, reefer, dope, hash, herb, chronic, and many other names, has a reputation for being a safe narcotic.
In reality, there are no ‘safe’ narcotics, and the potential for addiction to ‘weed’ (as it will be henceforth referred to) has well earned its place on the DEA Schedule 1 list of dangerous, addictive drugs. Let’s read on to see just how weed can be addictive and habit forming.
“Don’t Panic, It’s Organic” one popular cannabis-related slogan reads. The ‘Good Time’ reputation weed has, due in part to its role in the burgeoning hippie movements of the 60s and early 70s, has led many substance abusers and addicts astray.
Popular TV shows and movies such as “That 70’s Show” and “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” portray weed abuse as being, at worst, mildly intoxicating. Unfortunately, even casual marijuana consumption can permanently alter your brain chemistry.
The team found that persistent marijuana use was linked to a decline in IQ, even after the researchers controlled for educational differences. The most persistent users — those who reported using the drug in three or more waves of the study — experienced a drop in neuropsychological functioning equivalent to about six IQ points (PNAS, 2012). “That’s in the same realm as what you’d see with lead exposure,” says Weiss. “It’s not a trifle.”
Not a good time. Not a laughing matter. Yet, the most chronic ‘chronic’ users will deny addiction, even as they go for their bedside’ wake and bake’ (referring to getting high first thing in the morning after waking up).
In a sense, weed is not addictive in the same way that heroin is. Your body does not develop a physiological need for it. However, the active ingredient in weed, Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), quickly invokes a resistance in the human body. More and more weed or weed products are needed to stay high.
What are some of the positive aspects of weed that encourage people to avoid withdrawal (and therefore, spur addiction?)
THC interacts with the reward system of your brain and dumps dopamine, much like harder drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and others. This leads to a sense or feeling of euphoria and stress relief.
Weed allegedly can treat certain types of pain – a self-medicator dependent on weed may not want to get clean due to an injury or pain.
Weed can also interfere with the formation of memories, and the cessation of it may force an individual to deal with a trauma or other event that weed helped them to forget.
Other symptoms of withdrawal include diminished appetite, stomach or digestion issues, depression, chills, inability to focus on a task, sweating, headaches, rapid mood changes, irritability, insomnia or other sleeping disorders.
Many users will also experience intense cravings for marijuana, similar to the way a smoker craves a cigarette.
Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it,24,25 rising to about 17 percent in those who start using in their teens.26,27
To summarize this excerpt, the ‘use disorder’ of weed becomes an addiction when you cannot force yourself to stop using it, despite having one or more compelling reasons in your life to do so.
According to DrugAbuse.gov, only 10% of people will become addicted, a much lower rate than heroin or methamphetamines. If that’s the case, then why is it so important to reach out to and try to help marijuana addicts?
Paralleling the rise in marijuana use disorders, treatment admissions for primary marijuana dependence have increased both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of total admissions, from 7 percent in 1993 to 16 percent in 2003 (SAMHSA, 2004). The extent of marijuana use and its associated consequences clearly indicate a public health problem that requires systematic effort focused on prevention and intervention.
Even with a rise in the prevalence of treatment facilities and staff trained to handle marijuana addiction, it is the forgotten addiction. Individuals are far less likely to admit an addiction to marijuana than they would to say, heroin or amphetamines.
This is once again linked to popular depictions of marijuana in media and society as being a harmless narcotic, as opposed to the dangerous substance it is.
As an additional word of warning, the rise of THC oil products, such as “dabs,” “wax,” “shatter,” and “budder,” make it very easy to deliver massive doses of THC to addicts. THC concentrates in such products usually begins around 70%, or seven times stronger than a regular marijuana joint.
This super-dose of THC means that from the very first hit, the subject is already well on their way to developing an unfortunate resistance to THC.
Other products containing THC that addicts may utilize are soap, lotions, toothpaste, personal lubricants, candy, shampoo, and many others.
There is also a rise of THC being included in food items, such as brownies, cookies, and other foodstuffs.
Consult with a doctor or addiction expert before starting a recovery journey from marijuana. Like all narcotics, it can be an arduous process, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.