09 July 2018

Addiction in the news: cannabis addiction rising amongst women over 40

Who is seeking treatment for cannabis addiction?

According to a study conducted by the University of York, cannabis addiction is increasing amongst the over 40s, with the rise most noticeable amongst women. Researchers analysed the 2005-6 and 2015-16 data sets produced by Public Health England. They compared the numbers of people seeking help from addiction treatment centres for marijuana dependency. Whilst the overall usage of cannabis has declined, there has been a spike in the 40+ demographic presenting in treatment with a primary addiction to cannabis. Amongst this group, there’s been an increase of over 50% amongst women, who are seeking professional treatment for cannabis addiction.

Although it is still mainly young men using cannabis, including to addictive levels, the report author Ian Hamilton (a lecturer at the University of York) highlighted the affordability and availability of cannabis as key factors in the rise of over 40s seeking treatment. Hamilton said this group may have used lower strength cannabis in their earlier years. They may also have a strong belief that cannabis is fairly mild in comparison to other recreational drugs. In recent years, however, higher strength cannabis including skunk is much more widely available. In fact, modern cannabis is often engineered to increase the likelihood of dependence – with higher levels of THC and lower or no CBD at all (a chemical compound that moderates the effects of THC). This could be one reason why the over 40s and women are suffering greater ill effects from using cannabis, including developing an addiction.

Is cannabis addictive?

For many decades, there has been fierce debate about whether cannabis is physiologically and/or psychologically addictive. There have been strong claims from cannabis users, health professionals, academics, politicians and lobby groups worldwide. Many people say that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, for example, not only in terms of the health impacts for the user and the cost to health services including Accident & Emergency departments, but also the associated antisocial behaviour, crime or loss of productivity. Some cannabis users cite their own experience of using the drug, saying they can exercise choice about how much and how often they use cannabis.

Many studies, however, have concluded that long-term cannabis use correlates with harmful health and social implications, including an increased risk of mental illness. In 2014, for example, Professor Wayne Hall, an adviser to the World Health Organisation, reported after a 20-year study that cannabis has a wide range of harmful side effects. In terms of addictive qualities, he said cannabis can be compared to alcohol or other drugs. “There is no doubt that heavy users experience a withdrawal syndrome as with alcohol and heroin,” Professor Hall said.

What are the signs of cannabis addiction?

If you are seeking information for yourself on the signs of cannabis addiction, the chances are that you already suspect your cannabis usage could be problematic. Perhaps you know it’s affecting your mental or physical health, your finances, your relationships, work, education or life opportunities. You may also be searching for this information because you are concerned about a friend or family member. One or two of these signs alone may not indicate an addiction. The more of these signs that apply, however, the more likely it is that the cannabis usage is of an addictive nature.

Some of the more obvious signs to look out for with cannabis addiction include:

  • spending increasing amounts of money on cannabis and more time using the drug
  • going to greater lengths or taking risks to get hold of cannabis
  • associating more with people who use cannabis, including in social situations
  • avoiding people or places where cannabis use is not allowed or deemed to be unacceptable
  • suffering mental health problems including depression, anxiety, anger, self-esteem issues, memory impairment or in severe cases bipolar disorder, psychosis or schizophrenia – and being unable to moderate your cannabis use
  • experiencing physical health problems including headaches, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, respiratory infections or worse – and being unable to moderate your cannabis use
  • experiencing unwanted consequences of cannabis use, such as losing a job or relationship or a positive opportunity
  • a feeling that you can’t do without cannabis – you tell yourself that you need cannabis to get through certain situations or life experiences

Some less obvious signs of cannabis addiction include:

  • getting annoyed or changing the subject if a friend or family member questions how much cannabis you use
  • playing down the extent of your cannabis usage
  • keeping a secret stash in reserve at parties for your personal use
  • becoming anxious or irritable if you can’t get hold of cannabis
  • feeling like a social event or experience won’t be as good without cannabis
  • changing or cancelling plans, especially if cannabis is not available
  • over-thinking or planning the next time you can use cannabis

What help is available from UKAT for cannabis addiction?

UK Addiction Treatment Centres have a wide range of treatment facilities and programmes for people suffering from addictive disorders, including people with cannabis addiction. From very cost-effective rehabs through to luxury addiction treatment centres, our purpose is to provide excellent treatment to all our clients, as they start their process of recovery from addiction. We aim to equip our clients with the awareness, support and skills they need, to sustain their recovery long term.


Our treatment approach is based around abstinence, underpinned by the 12-step philosophy. Our highly skilled clinical and therapeutic teams are trained in many effective therapy techniques. These include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), trauma therapy, person-centred therapy, group and 1-2-1 therapies, motivational groups and life skills workshops. UKAT offers a free aftercare programme to all our clients, to encourage ongoing recovery and positive peer support. We also make our clients aware of a range of support options in the community.


To find out more about treatment for cannabis addiction and/or any other addiction, call 0808 274 0903 or email info@ukat.co.uk or use the live chat or call back function on our website. To discover more of the statistics and facts about cannabis, visit the UKAT cannabis addiction page.


Cannabis addiction ‘rising among women and over 40s’:


Cannabis can be highly addictive major study finds:


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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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