Is marijuana addiction a myth or is it a real possibility?
Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, seeds and stem of the hemp plant whose scientific name is Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a hallucinogen meaning it distorts how the users mind perceives the world they live in. THC is the chemical present in cannabis that creates this effect.
Marijuana is often smoked like a cigarette (joint) or in a pipe. The other way of using is by ingesting either by brewing tea or mixing with food. Sometimes the joint is usually laced with other more powerful drugs such as cocaine and PCP. When the user smokes a joint they feel the effect within minutes. Immediate sensations include; increased heart rate, lessened coordination and balance and an unreal state of the mind. The effects peak after 30 minutes. The effects usually last two or three hours but they could take longer, it all depends on how much the user took.
According to a survey done in high schools it is the most commonly used illicit drugs in the United States. More than 1 in every 3 Americans has tried using Marijuana at least once in their lives. 9% of marijuana users develop an addiction with time.
Addiction Defined For Marijuana
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. This definition applies regardless of whether the addiction is to a drug or an activity. Applying this definition to marijuana, we are able to diagnose whether marijuana use by an individual reaches the threshold to be defined as addiction.
Identifying Marijuana Addiction
Addiction to marijuana can be determined by looking for specific signs of abuse that fall within the bounds of the above definition. These signs include, but are not entirely limited to:
- Marijuana tolerance often signified by withdrawal symptoms – Use crosses the line to addiction when the body or brain rewards that use.
- Tolerance signifies that the body is rewarding excessive use of the drug. Conversely, withdrawal symptoms represent a negative response that rewards use of the drug with a lack of side effects. This lesser reward becomes something the addict looks forward to.
- Frequent and heavy marijuana use that interferes with other activities – This sign represents the part of the definition that refers to addiction as a “primary and chronic” disease. Use of marijuana is taking priority over other, more important activities and you can’t remember the last day when you didn’t partake of it, you have almost certainly reached the point of addiction.
- Using marijuana even after it has caused significant social problems or side effects
- This sign represents the disease part of the definition. While most diseases are biological agents that attack your body internally, the concept of a disease is broader than that, especially when referring to social diseases like addiction. In this case, your addiction is causing damage, either socially or physically or both, and that damage is only getting worse without some form of treatment.
- This disease may express itself in a variety of ways, including memory impairment, social alienation, failure to fulfill responsibilities, physical altercations or accidents resulting from being high, or even severe paranoia. However it reveals itself through an unwillingness to cease use of the drug after such problems is a clear sign of addiction.
How Likely Is It Someone Will Get Addicted To Marijuana
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, by the time they finish high school, roughly 45% of children in the U.S. will have used marijuana at least once in their life. Surprisingly, this number barely changes for adults, meaning that nearly every adult in the U.S. who has used marijuana in their lifetime started using it while under the age of 18.
Luckily for most marijuana users, addiction is rare. Roughly 10% of users succumb to addiction as defined medically. Overuse of the drug is common in users, but rarely to the point that it reaches abuse.
However, just because your odds are low of getting addicted, that doesn’t mean you are in the clear. While the average person has about a 10% chance of getting addicted, a portion of the population has a much higher chance, approaching a near certainty.
There is a genetic component to addiction that has been studied and identified. Users with a specific genetic profile have a much higher chance of becoming addicted to marijuana than others. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to identify the gene responsible for addiction before someone starts using marijuana. Thus, if you choose to start using marijuana you are taking a major risk. If you have the gene that corresponds with addiction, you are almost certain to become addicted, at which point you are at high risk for the major side effects of the drug, including memory degradation.
Signs & Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction
Long term use and abuse of marijuana usually leads to addiction. This is a chronic disease that the individual has trouble controlling their marijuana use and they cannot stop use even with the negative consequences it has. An addicted individual will display compulsive drug seeking activities. Below are a few of the signs an addict will portray.
This is the first evidence of dependency. When one used for the first time a few puffs are enough to make him feel the effects. After long use it takes more puffs for you to feel the same effects. If one does not use the drug but they start experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, loss of appetite and insomnia then it means that addiction has set in.
Loss of Control
If the user wishes to cut back on the amount or times they use and then they latter go against their intentions and smoke anyway is a sign that they are already addicted. If they decide to cut down, they always fail.
Spend Time and Money Getting a High
If one is taking time from activities that were previously very important to them so as to get high this shows an addiction process.
If smoking weed has made the user stop taking care of their daily responsibilities such as going to school. And they show less productivity it is a sign of deeper problems.
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
When it comes to treating marijuana addiction, therapy is the cornerstone. Therapy intends to help people avoid and cope with marijuana triggers so they do not lapse due to the temptations. Most of the individuals with an abuse problem are treated on an outpatient basis. Marijuana usually accounts for 67% of treatment admissions. Behavioral treatments such as motivational enhancement therapy, contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy and family based therapies are very effective in treating marijuana addiction. Currently there is no medication that has shown to be an effective treatment of marijuana use disorder. Antidepressant medication may help individuals manage the withdrawal symptoms and help avoid relapse.
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