Cannabis, or marijuana, is often referred to as a ‘gateway drug’ given its easy accessibility and various ingestion methods. Many people start off using cannabis before moving on to harder drugs in search of a stronger high. 

A common misconception is that cannabis, marijuana or weed is not addictive. While marijuana may not be as life-threatening as heroin or cocaine is, developing a marijuana addiction is possible and can have immensely adverse effects on the body and brain. 

The earlier the intervention with a cannabis addiction the more likely for long-term recovery. It is important to seek professional advice by calling our admissions team, who will be able to make treatment recommendations if you are concerned about someone you love. 

The History of Cannabis

Cannabis is known as one of the most widely consumed substances in the world. It is used both recreationally and medically. Similar to many other substances, cannabis is a plant-derived drug. You may be familiar with other names it’s known as, such as weed, pot, marijuana, and bud, there are countless street names for this drug. All slang terms refer to the drug that is derived from different strains of the cannabis plant. It can be smoked in dried, rolled leaves of the plant, used as oil or resin but can also be ingested as a gummy and has been increasingly used in vapes and patches. 

Cannabis is a psychoactive, mind-altering, substance. Some of its most common effects include drastic changes in mood, increased appetite and intense feelings of euphoria. You may also experience less pleasurable effects such as paranoia, or anxiety. While marijuana is, in many places, considered an illicit drug, it has in recent years had a vast impact on the medical community. Doctors are now prescribing medical marijuana for things such as depression, anxiety, cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. 

Risks Associated with Cannabis Use

Many people can enjoy using cannabis without suffering serious harm. Unfortunately, long-term cannabis use can negatively impact one’s physical and mental health. Increased appetite, sleepiness, short term memory impairment, and a decline in concentration abilities, are some of the more common effects of smoking cannabis. Cannabis can interrupt your sleep pattern and alter your mood. 

These constant chemical changes taking place within the brain can, in turn, cause depression. More recently, there has been an increasing amount of evidence linking cannabis use to the development of mental health disorders in those who may be predisposed to developing certain psychological disorders. In some cases, heavy cannabis use can also trigger a psychotic episode or extreme paranoia and panic attacks while under the influence of cannabis. 

Excessive cannabis use can also result in: 

  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Weakened immune system
  • Vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Fainting
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired judgment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Hallucinations

Signs and Symptoms of a Cannabis Addiction

You may have begun casually smoking marijuana or using cannabis to ‘take the edge off’ or to ‘have fun’. This makes it difficult to identify whether you’re struggling with an addiction vs an occasional recreational use. 

As you become more devoted to your cannabis use, you may begin to notice changes in your own behaviour or the behaviour of others. You may experience mood swings, lose interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed. You may even reject the care and concern of loved ones, all at the expense of protecting your habit.

Other signs of cannabis addiction include:

  • Risk-taking – this may include impulsivity and risk-taking behaviour such as risky sexual behaviour or risks that may involve a run-in with the law
  • Legal issues
  • Financial issues 
  • Impaired motor skills and coordination (slow reflexes)
  • Changes in behaviour – one may begin to lie,  be deceitful, and manipulative
  • Changes in friends 
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns/habits
  • Paranoia
  • Often smelling of herbal smoke
  • Often red, bloodshot or sleepy-looking eyes
  • Often seeming overly relaxed and/or drowsy 
  • Loss of memory

What are the long-term effects of cannabis addiction?

Continuous abuse of cannabis can have a detrimental impact on your physical, emotional and socioeconomic wellbeing, and can result in a range of long-term problems, including:

  • Heart and lung problems
  • Compromised immune system
  • Injury from impaired co-ordination and/or reckless behaviours
  • Sexual problems
  • Impaired mental processing
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Strained or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Family breakdowns
  • Job loss and long-term unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Homelessness
  • Problems with the law, including arrest and imprisonment

However, it’s important to note that these effects will differ from person to person based on a variety of factors, such as weight, height, gender and general health. 

What are the effects of cannabis withdrawal?

While cannabis withdrawal isn’t considered lif-threatening like other substance withdrawals, it can still be unpleasant for the person experiencing it. If you have a long history of cannabis abuse, you may experience several unpleasant withdrawal symptoms after complete cessation of the drug, These symptoms can include: Strong cravings for cannabis

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Treatment

As with any addiction the earlier the intervention the greater the chance of long-term recovery. There are a variety of treatment options for someone suffering from a cannabis addiction such as in-patient programs, clinics and facilities and out-patient programs. It is always advised to contact a medical professional or addiction specialist for information about addiction treatment centres and options that may be appropriate for your loved one. 

Help for Cannabis Addiction at CATCH Recovery

If you’ve become concerned about your use of cannabis, or you believe someone you love may be abusing it, get in touch with CATCH Recovery to find out which treatments are available to you. 

Our South West London clinic offers free addiction assessments, inpatient and outpatient therapy programmes and a bespoke aftercare service once you complete treatment. 

If you’re struggling but don’t live in the South of England, you may find our Telehealth services more ideal. Telehealth allows our clients to receive help and support for alcohol or drug addiction remotely on platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Teams. 

Alternatively, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland as well as clinics in Sweden and The Netherlands.