Cannabis Addiction & Abuse

This Page was last reviewed and changed on August 19th 2021

Content Overview

Cannabis, also known as marijuana – is a psychoactive plant, considered by many to be the most popular illicit drug in the world. Although some people argue that cannabis is a natural plant with therapeutic benefits, it can still result in addiction, with cannabis dependence continuing to be a growing problem in the UK. Are you concerned about your cannabis use or perhaps someone you love is showing signs of cannabis addiction? We’ve put together this page to help you understand what cannabis addiction is, as well as the signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction so that you can make an informed decision on how to tackle it.

If you or a loved one have tried many times to give up cannabis unsuccessfully, rehab may be a good option for you. Being away from temptation and triggers in a safe, secure environment has been shown to increase success rates.

Cannabis comes in various forms and is often smoked or eaten as edibles such as candies and baked goods. In some countries, the drug is legally used for medicinal purposes. People who use it medically do so to increase appetite, treat pain or to relieve stress. Meanwhile, recreational users consume it in order to achieve the desired ‘high’ and for its calming effects.

In the UK, it is illegal to possess cannabis or use it recreationally, but it remains the most widely used illicit drug in the country. It is highly addictive and can lead to dependence and subsequently addiction if abused. Addiction to cannabis is difficult to overcome and it can take years before a user is completely free of the substance, but nonetheless, it is crucial to seek treatment.
Here, we’ve provided detailed information to help you or a loved one overcome a cannabis addiction.

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a drug that contains THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) as its active chemical. It derives from Indian hemp plants like Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. There are a number of other names by which cannabis is known, including skunk, joint, ganja, herb, weed, hash, pot and grass.

CBD is another cannabinoid found in Cannabis plants, CBD is thought to negate some of the effects of THC.

Even if you’ve never set eyes on the plant before, you may have seen representations of it in the world of media or fashion. Its bright green leaves have a distinctive shape, with five or seven leaflets. People who use it do so for THC’s psychoactive effects. The psychoactive forms of cannabis come in three main varieties: hash oil, hashish and marijuana.

Is Cannabis Addictive?

A 2011 American study found 8.9% to be the probability of a user becoming dependent on cannabis. This was lower than substances like cocaine, alcohol and nicotine. Not everyone who uses the drug will become addicted, but it does happen to some.

It’s important to understand that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Many addiction specialists and professionals argue that its not the substance itself that drives addiction, more so the individual’s underlying vulnerability to addiction.

It’s common for those struggling with a particular addiction to demonstrate other addictive patterns of behaviour, including other substances. You should look to address the root causes of addiction rather than cannabis use itself.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cannabis addiction, and you’d like to speak to an addiction specialist about your concerns, please reach out to us via the live chat feature below. Many of our addiction counsellors are in recovery themselves and are best suited for answering any questions you may have.

How does cannabis affect the body?

The effects on the body when cannabis is consumed differ, depending on the method of ingestion. When you eat or drink it, for example, the effects won’t take hold as quickly as when you inhale the smoke. The drug quickly enters your bloodstream and reaches your organs faster when it’s smoked.

Cannabis also affects people very differently. Initially cannabis can make individuals feel relaxed, even euphoric. Cannabis affects specific dopamine receptors in the brain responsible for hunger, and may lead users to overindulge in eating (known as the munchies).

For some cannabis users – and especially for those who abuse it – cannabis may have a number of unpleasant side effects that impact an individual’s mental well-being.

Because THC can heighten dopamine levels in the brain, individuals who are susceptible to anxiety, paranoia and even psychosis may experience worsened symptoms as a result of ingesting THC.

Please speak to one of our addiction specialists today if you think you or someone you care about may be experiencing a worsening of mental health as a result of cannabis use.

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Cannabis and Psychological Dependence

Cannabis causes an increase in the body’s production of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that controls the feelings of reward and pleasure. With more dopamine in your system, users may want to continue using the drug in order to prolong its effects.

Cannabis abuse over time can lead to tolerance, whereby the user needs to ingest more cannabis for it have the same affect.

Although dependence and tolerance can exist without the presence of addiction, the terms addiction and dependence are often used interchangeably to avoid confusion.

As the brain continues to adapt to increased levels of dopamine, users may become psychologically dependent and experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when attempting to give it up. Please visit our cannabis withdrawal symptoms page for more information.

Signs & Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

Cannabis Addiction shares most, if not all symptoms with all substance related disorders. Addiction in itself is a psychological phenomena characterised by an inability to control urges despite serious financial, emotional and physical consequences.

If you can relate to a lot of the below, please reach out to our addiction specialists today for confidential advice:

Cannabis Addiction Signs and Symptoms in Teenagers

  • Going out every night with friends, coming home smelling of weed
  • Poor grades, poor concentration and a loss of interest in school
  • Lying about where they are going and what they are doing
  • Denying that they use cannabis, or the extent of their use
  • Buying cannabis with money they weren’t given
  • Skipping college to get high
  • Regularly coming home with red eyes
  • Having regular showers or changing clothes to hide the smell of cannabis
  • Becoming withdrawn or reclusive

Cannabis Addiction Signs and Symptoms in Adults

  • Missing work/making excuses to stay at home and smoke cannabis
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Arguments with partners about cannabis use
  • Spending money on cannabis instead of important things
  • Taking out payday loans to pay for cannabis
  • Becoming quiet or reclusive, avoiding family events
  • Having regular showers or changing clothes to hide the smell of cannabis
  • Getting angry or annoyed when unable to use cannabis
  • Engaging in cannabis use before engaging with loved ones including children
  • Driving under the influence of cannabis
  • Dealing cannabis to fund their addiction

Cannabis Addiction Signs and Symptoms in Employees

  • Regularly missing work or making excuses to go home early
  • Smelling of cannabis regularly when entering work, or after lunch breaks
  • Going out for long lunch breaks alone, returning spaced out
  • Appearing zoned out in front of the computer/always “tired”
  • Red eyes
  • Becoming frustrated if having to leave work later than usual

It’s worth noting that most of the above signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction can be applied to other substances including alcohol. If you or someone you care about is going through a difficult time with cannabis addiction, we’d like to talk to you about how we can help.

Cannabis addiction is very treatable, but it’s important that you understand that it won’t go away on its own.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What causes cannabis addiction?

Using cannabis over a prolonged period of time and in increasing doses leads to addiction. You can also become addicted to cannabis if you’re generally prone to addiction, due to certain environmental or genetic factors.

Some risk factors which could predispose you or a loved one to addiction include ready access to cannabis; close affiliation with peers who use cannabis; dropping out of school; poor parenting; emotional distress; and frequent use at a young age, amongst others. Studies have found adolescents and people with mental health conditions to be at greater risk of developing a cannabis addiction.

How can I stop cannabis addiction?

Recovering from cannabis addiction takes time, but it can be done. Everyone is different and so your brain is bound to change in a different manner from that of someone else. In certain cases, recovery won’t take as long as it might in most other cases.
If you or a loved one have tried to stop cannabis addiction several times with no success, your best bet is to speak to an expert and enrol in a rehabilitation facility, where you can receive adequate professional treatment.

How can I beat cannabis addiction?

The best way to beat cannabis addiction is to stop, even before it begins. This means discontinuing cannabis abuse while you still have control over your life. However, it may be too late before you even realise the need to beat addiction..

In order to beat addiction for good, you can seek professional help via a social worker, counsellor or psychotherapist. In addition, holistic practices can also help as you focus on trying to improve yourself physically, spiritually and mentally. These include mindfulness, meditation, eating healthily and exercising.

How can I manage cannabis addiction?

Cannabis addiction can be difficult not only for the addict to deal with but also for their family. However, addiction has to be managed whilst seeking treatment – especially as cannabis addiction can take years to treat.

You can start by delaying the urge to smoke and doing your best to de-stress using other methods. In addition to averting stress, avoid other possible triggers for cannabis use. Educating yourself about addiction can also be a great help, as well as finding a healthy distraction to engage yourself with.

Where can I help for cannabis addiction?

UKAT offers world-class addiction treatment in various facilities across the UK. All our rehab centres are fully equipped to handle cannabis addiction, so whether you’re in Banbury or Essex, you’re bound to find a UKAT rehab centre close to you. Our treatment team comprises experts who have worked in the addiction treatment sphere for years, so rest assured you’re in good hands.

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If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*

* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

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