October 10th, 2023
A staggering fourteen million people have used cannabis in the UK, making it the most popular illicit drug. While not everyone who uses cannabis will become addicted, 11% of users will develop a cannabis addiction, with that figure rising to 16% if you used cannabis as a teen.
On this page, we explore what cannabis is, define marijuana abuse and explain how cannabis addiction develops. Additionally, we will study the health risks of cannabis addiction, the signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction to look out for, and how to get support.
A closer look at marijuana addiction
Cannabis (also known as marijuana) is often called a “gateway” drug, which refers to it popularly being the first drug people try before going on to try other illegal drugs. This might be true; however, the dangers of cannabis addiction should be recognised in its own right.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a Class B illegal substance, which the UK government outlawed in 1928. The active chemical in cannabis is called THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is another cannabinoid found in cannabis, which is thought to negate some of the effects of THC.
Cannabis is popularly consumed to release the psychoactive effects of THC. The psychoactive forms of cannabis are mainly hash oil, hashish and marijuana.
Common names for cannabis include:
Mind altering effects of cannabis
When consuming cannabis, THC is introduced to your brain, which is then able to attach itself to molecules called cannabinoid receptors. Once attached, it will start to disrupt mental and physical functions, largely affecting brain areas that control pleasure, coordination, perception of time and concentration.
Cannabis affects each individual differently, although some common effects include feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Additionally, you might become talkative or giddy and you’ll find everything very funny. Alternatively, you might experience negative reactions, such as paranoia and hallucinations, which will lead to an agitated state.
Defining cannabis addiction
Cannabis addiction is induced through continued cannabis abuse over a long period. When you increase the strength of cannabis and start using more effective methods of delivery, your cannabis addiction will progress exponentially. Cannabis abusers will continue to use the substance despite knowing the dangers of doing so.
The development of cannabis addiction
Cannabis increases the production of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in control of pleasure and reward feelings. With excess dopamine in your system, you will feel compelled to abuse cannabis to prolong its effects.
Continued marijuana abuse will lead to the development of a cannabis tolerance, meaning you have to consume more cannabis for it to have the same effect as before.
As your brain continues to adapt to the excess dopamine introduced by cannabis abuse, you might become psychologically dependent and experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit cannabis use.
DID YOU KNOW…
Cannabis is responsible for 30% of all admissions into addiction treatment in the EU.
Cannabis users have on average:
- Abused the substance for ten years.
- Tried to quit six times before enrolling in treatment.
The health risks of cannabis addiction
Cannabis can immediately increase your heart rate and blood pressure after a single use. Furthermore, it can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and other vascular diseases. These health risks are primarily linked to users who smoke marijuana.
Cannabis is usually smoked in:
- Joints (hand-rolled cigarettes)
- Bongs (water pipes)
- Blunts (cigars or cigar wrappers filled with cannabis)
Regardless of how cannabis is smoked, it will harm your lung tissues by scarring and damaging the small blood vessels. Cannabis smoke acts much like tobacco smoke once it enters your system. Cannabis and tobacco smoke contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
Smoking cannabis also largely contributes to bronchitis, coughing and mucus production, although these symptoms can be avoided if you quit smoking cannabis.
Frequent high doses of cannabis can cause unpleasant disorientation, anxiety, depression, social anxiety and paranoia. Abusing cannabis places you at risk of developing temporary psychosis and schizophrenia, a long term mental disorder in which you see and hear things that aren’t real. You would be at higher risk of schizophrenia if you started abusing cannabis at a young age in high quantities.
Signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction
Cannabis addiction is a disorder which shares the same symptoms related to other, often perceived as more powerful, substances.
Cannabis addiction is a phenomenon where you cannot control consumption urges despite serious financial, emotional and physical consequences.
Physical symptoms of cannabis addiction
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Excessive sleepiness
- Impaired balance
- Poor coordination
- Lack of hygiene
Psychological symptoms of cannabis addiction:
- Concentration and focusing issues
- Delayed responsiveness
- Poor judgement
- Impaired perception of time
- Dramatic mood swings
Spotting cannabis addiction in someone else
If you can relate to any of the information provided below, it is advised to reach out to our addiction specialists for confidential advice.
Spotting cannabis addiction in teenagers
- They go out every night with friends and return home smelling of smoke or weed.
- Exhibiting poor concentration, performing poorly and losing interest in school.
- Lying about their whereabouts or what they are doing.
- Denying that they use cannabis or the extent of their use.
- Buying cannabis with money they weren’t given.
- Skipping school/college to smoke cannabis.
- Regularly arriving home with red eyes.
- Having regular showers or changing clothes to hide the smell of cannabis.
- Becoming withdrawn or reclusive.
Spotting cannabis addiction in adults
- Missing work or making excuses to stay home and smoke cannabis.
- Loss of interest in other activities.
- Arguments with partners about cannabis use.
- Spending money on cannabis instead of important things (food and rent).
- Taking out payday loans to pay for cannabis.
- Becoming quiet and reclusive, avoiding family events.
- Getting angry and annoyed when unable to use cannabis.
- Having regular showers or changing clothes to hide the smell of cannabis.
- Engaging in cannabis use before engaging with loved ones, including children.
- Driving under the influence of cannabis.
- Dealing cannabis to fund their addiction.
Spotting cannabis addiction in employees
- Regularly missing work or making excuses to go home early.
- Smelling of cannabis regularly when entering work, or after lunch breaks.
- Going for long lunch breaks alone, returning spaced out.
- Appearing zoned out in front of the computer.
- Consistently tired.
- Often having red eyes.
- Becoming frustrated if having to leave work later than usual.
These signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction can apply to addiction to any other substance, including alcohol. If you or someone you know is dealing with cannabis addiction, we highly recommend you seek professional treatment as soon as possible.
Cannabis addiction is very much treatable; although it is vital you understand it won’t go away without treatment.
Can you overcome cannabis addiction
Yes, you can overcome cannabis addiction by seeking help and professional treatment.
It is a step-by-step process that starts with you contacting a professional today and getting the help you need to regain your strength and health.
Your next step
The next step would be to start the recovery process, which can be difficult if attempting it alone. Vitally important is to understand you are not alone and that you are fortunate enough to have professional help nearby, ready and waiting to help you make a full recovery.
After deciding to quit cannabis, you are on your way to regaining your health.
It is essential to acknowledge that admitting you have a cannabis addiction is the first step to making a full recovery. Read more on the cannabis detox and cannabis rehab pages for more information on what to do next.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get rid of cannabis addiction?
It is highly advised to surround yourself with a strong support group at an addiction recovery clinic. Professional guidance from those that can offer first-hand advice helps you to implement routine and reinforces that you are not alone and can recover from the psychological effects of cannabis addiction.
Is cannabis bad for you?
Cannabis is a powerful substance that introduces artificial chemicals to your brain. The psychological effects of the excess chemicals could have lasting effects on your cognitive performance, detrimental to functions such as concentration, memory and decision making.
Are there health benefits of cannabis?
Cannabis contains two main cannabinoids, namely THC and CBD. THC is the component that is commonly associated with cannabis. THC is intoxicating and induces pleasurable feelings. CBD on the other hand is a non-intoxicating and non-euphoric component of cannabis, which has a medical purpose. CBD is used to treat pain, anxiety and diabetes.
How can I manage cannabis addiction?
Cannabis addiction, just as any other substance addiction, can be all-consuming. A cannabis addiction will dictate your thoughts and actions, which makes it important to seek professional medical help when quitting cannabis to ensure your comfort and safety. It is ill advised to treat your cannabis addiction without the help of a medical professional.
Where can I get help for cannabis addiction?
The UK has an array of experienced and highly trained treatment facilities all over the country, which give you the best possible chance of making a successful recovery in a safe and comfortable environment. UKAT has helped thousands of people overcome cannabis addiction and continues to do so today. find out more about our centres
and what is the best rehab for you.