Marijuana – pot, herb, hash – is perhaps one of the most underestimated illegal drugs available. Often dismissed by many as not being a ‘real’ drug like cocaine or heroin, and very few people bother to ask the question, ‘Is marijuana addictive?’. The federal government considers marijuana to be a substance with a high risk of abuse, yet two states have agreed to marijuana legalization and more and more Americans are taking up pot use.
Marijuana is a brain-altering substance, and as such can become addictive. Just because it is not as dangerous as cocaine or heroin doesn’t mean that the effects of marijuana aren’t harmful and many Americans find themselves shutting out aspects of their lives in order to indulge their pot use.
What are the effects of marijuana addiction?
Marijuana contains a mind altering chemical referred to as THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol to give it its full name. Because THC has a similar structure to a naturally occurring chemical in the brain anandamide, it can bind to the cannabinoid receptors, altering brain functions and giving the users a high. The areas of the brain where the concentration of cannabinoid receptors is most dense are the areas that control pleasure, memory, concentration, and time and sensory perception. This can lead to users feeling relaxed and free of stresses, as well as altering their experience of the world around them.
Just like smoking cigarettes, marijuana irritates the lungs and can lead to many of the same health problems experienced by those who smoke tobacco. Marijuana users can experience respiratory problems, such as a persistent cough, frequent chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections. Marijuana can double a person’s heart rate for up to three hours after smoking, making users almost five times more at risk of having a heart attack. Some studies have linked repeated marijuana use in developing youngsters to lower levels of IQ.
Why have some states continued with marijuana legalization?
There are political and financial incentives for marijuana legalization across the United States, with strong public support for the notion. Campaigners argue that it is unfair to classify marijuana in the same category as much more dangerous drugs like heroin. 750,000 Americans are arrested each year for marijuana-related offences, and some people think that this is a waste of police time and resources.
The marijuana industry produces a huge amount of revenue each year and is expected to be making $8billion worth of annual sales by 2018. Marijuana legalization in Colorado brought in $14million in taxable sales in 2014. If every state followed Colorado’s example, marijuana use could contribute a substantial amount to the US economy.
There are still many reasons why marijuana legalization is a bad thing, but anti-marijuana campaigners, with their warnings about the dangers and consequences of marijuana abuse, are starting to be drowned out by favorable public opinion, partly thanks to some common misconceptions regarding the severity of the drug.
Do I have a marijuana addiction?
Is marijuana addictive? The simple answer is yes. Just because the majority of pot users don’t develop an addiction doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. People can get addicted to plenty of things. Addictive behavior can come from your genes or your personal situation. Many people use it to cope with stress or anxiety. Sometimes it becomes impossible for them to relax without it. The brain can come to depend upon the effects of weed, creating withdrawal symptoms that are hard to ignore or overcome.
Regardless of the strength of drug you take, there are some classic signs of addiction you can look out for. Addicts often:
- Spend money on drugs that they can’t really afford to
- Are always focused on where their next high is coming from
- Become nervous or skittish when there are no drugs in the house
- Have to take larger doses of pot in order to achieve the same high they used to get from smaller amounts
- Will continue to use the drug even if their habit is obviously having a negative effect on their lives
- Will deny that they have changed, even if friends or family repeatedly raise concerns about their marijuana use
If you have noticed any of these behaviors, or your friends or family have told you that you have begun acting differently, it may be time for you to seek help for your marijuana addiction.
How do I beat my pot addiction?
Beating a pot addiction will require willpower and the support of your friends and family. It can be tough to give pot use, because your body will experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those associated with giving up any kind of drug. Most users have at least one of the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep disturbances
Because giving up pot is not easy, it is best to do it with professional help. A drug addiction treatment program will provide you with the help you need to overcome your cravings and beat your marijuana addiction. With one study finding that almost three quarters of marijuana users start smoking pot again to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms, the appeal of inpatient treatment is obvious. Being away from temptation makes it much easier to fight your cravings and deal with the withdrawal, while group therapies and one-to-one counselling sessions help you address the roots of your addiction and learn to cope with your problems and obstacles in other ways. Other treatment options include visiting the treatment center or hospital during
the day and coming home to your family at night.
The support and encouragement of your loved ones will be very important throughout your rehabilitation, so whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment, your family will play a major role.
For more information on marijuana addiction and treatment, give Steps to Recovery a call today.