In this article, you will learn to understand why cannabis isn’t as harmless as you think…
Medical use of cannabis was legalised in the UK on 1 November 2018. However, there continues to be ongoing discussion about whether cannabis should be completely legalised and decriminalised in the UK. In January 2022, a leaked government report outlined plans to begin decriminalising cannabis and other class B drugs in London.
Cannabis has always been considered a relatively harmless drug in comparison to alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines. However, despite this common belief, research has found that cannabis does in fact have negative long-term effects, especially on those who begin using it during adolescence.
Although many people believe cannabis is not addictive, it is entirely possible for users to become dependent on the drug following regular use. Unfortunately, dependence on cannabis is less obvious than other drugs such as heroin or cocaine because the symptoms of withdrawal are not intense. There is also a great deal of discussion surrounding whether cannabis addiction can lead to the use of “harder” drugs, especially in those who began using as adolescents.
What is Cannabis?
Derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, cannabinoid drugs have a long history, and still to this day, are one of the most widely used drugs in the world. Cannabis (marijuana) and hashish are the two most popular drugs made from the plant. Both have a high concentration of the psychoactive ingredients THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the substance that produces the “high” effect.
All Cannabis-based drugs are classified as depressants, meaning they slow down the central nervous system (CNS). Cannabis can also come in a synthetic form, which is considered a different type of drug, and also a more dangerous one.
Cannabis, commonly called marijuana, has many street names, including weed, dope, pot, grass, and Mary Jane. Hashish (hash) shares many of these nicknames and can also be referred to as ganja or skunk.
Though cannabinoid drugs have recently become legal in some areas, either for medical or recreational purposes, they are still illegal in most parts of the world. Ultimately, cannabis-based drugs are still considered drugs and pose a risk of addiction.
Marijuana vs. Hashish and Other Forms of Cannabis
Marijuana, like tobacco, is created from the dried leaves and flower parts of the Cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana is typically smoked, either in a pipe or hand-rolled blunt. Marijuana can also be consumed orally and transdermal (if made into a patch or creme).
Hashish is formed from the dried plant resin/sap, and usually comes in a block or paste form. It can also be smoked or baked into foods and eaten.
A third variation of recreational cannabis is hash oil, which has very concentrated amounts of THC, and can be smoked, vaporised (known as dabbing), or ingested by mouth.
Medicinal Use for Cannabis
Legalisation of marijuana has been largely up for debate because many argue for its potential health benefits. Currently, only a handful of countries permit cannabis use for medical reasons, provided that a person has a prescription.
Although there is limited scientific proof, cannabis is believed to help with nausea and vomiting, especially with cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy. It is also suggested that it can be utilised by people infected by HIV/AIDS to improve their appetite. Others also theorise that it can assist with chronic pain or muscle spasms.
However, all these claims are still not proven, and the potential risks, including that of addiction, may outweigh the benefits.
How is Cannabis Used Recreationally?
To smoke marijuana, the leaves are dried out, then crushed to a finer consistency. Appearance-wise, it may look like tobacco or tea. These crushed leaves are then hand-rolled into a cigarette or “joint” or placed into a smoking pipe; both of these can then be lit and smoked like regular tobacco.
Marijuana, hash, or hash oil can also be mixed into foods, such as brownies or cookies. Users claim the high from these “edibles” is different than that from smoking cannabis.
What Effects Does Cannabis (marijuana/hash) Produce?
Every drug affects every person in a different way. Method and amount of consumption, as well as the person’s state of wellbeing can alter a drug’s effects. The main changes that cannabis induces are relaxation, elevated mood, increase in appetite and altered perception of reality.
THC mimics a neurotransmitter naturally found in the brain called anandamide, which regulates dopamine levels, appetite, sleep and pain.
When smoked, cannabis-based drugs’ effects are felt almost-immediately. When eaten, it can take an hour or more for the effects to develop.
Some effects of chronic cannabis consumption include:
- Change in perception, including hallucinations and perception of an altered reality
- Change in mood, which can be influenced by the relaxation or euphoria produced by the high
- Drowsiness, fatigue and/or relaxation
- Increased appetite
- Spontaneous laughter
- Dry mouth
What Are the Dangers of Chronic Cannabis Use?
It is believed that long-term use of cannabis can have a negative effect on memory and concentration. Users may find it difficult to learn and have memory blackouts. Furthermore, this side effect can last long after cessation of use.
It is not uncommon for users to experience episodes of paranoia or even psychosis after cannabis consumption.
Chronic users may also experience a lower sex drive.
There has also been a link between cannabis use and an increased risk of schizophrenia and worsening of schizophrenic symptoms in those who have already been diagnosed.
Smoking cannabis, as well as other drugs, can also lead to respiratory issues, such as lung cancer.
Can Cannabis Use Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?
When not using cannabis, a user may experience:
- Irritability and mood swings
- Aggressive behaviour
- Loss of appetite, upset stomach or nausea
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Sweating or cold sweats, and tremors
Signs of Cannabis Addiction
There are many signs of addiction that people should look out for in themselves or their loved ones. It is possible to get addicted to cannabis, just like to any other illicit drug. Some of the common signs of cannabis addiction are:
- Development of, or increase in tolerance to cannabis
- Continued use, despite dangerous consequences
- Withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use
- Irritability and depression when not using
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Negative effects on social/family life or work, including isolation, due to preoccupation with cannabis
- Cravings for more cannabis-based drugs
- Taking risks in order to acquire more of the drug
- Financial problems
How is Cannabis Addiction Treated?
Cannabis addiction can be treated by various approaches. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and other talking individual and group therapy approaches are considered one of the best ways to treat cannabis addiction.
Chronic cannabis users may experience symptoms of both physical and psychological addiction, especially after a long period of consumption. It can be very tough for people to give up. Hence, supportive environment and attentive treatment programmes are key in order to achieve abstinence.
If you think you have developed an addiction to Cannabis, Which Rehab can help get you back on track with the right course of treatment.
For advice on which type of recovery programme is best suited to your needs, call our free 24-hour confidential helpline for advice on treatment options available to you.