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As we approach the legalization of marijuana in Canada, there is much discussion over whether weed is addictive.

Many people regularly use marijuana for recreational or medical reasons, the question is relevant to a substantial proportion of the population. Contrary to what is some sources claim, it is fully possible to become addicted to marijuana.

Marijuana is addictive. As with any substance or behaviour, an individual can form a dependence on the substance through regular use. While it is certainly not nearly as physically addictive as substances such as heroine or oxycodone, a regular user can come to rely on marijuana’s physical and psychological effects. They can also suffer withdrawal when attempting to stop using the drug, though again the symptoms will not be nearly as severe as with alcohol or other substances such as those mentioned above.

 Is Marijuana’s Addictive Potential Real?

The book The Science of Marijuana by Leslie L. Iverson, a professor of pharmacology with Cambridge, provides evidence-based insight into marijuana’s addictive qualities. He estimates, based on a review of the scientific literature, that between 10% and 30% of regular marijuana users develop a dependence on the substance. Iverson estimates that around 9% of users develop full addiction. Health Canada also provide a 9% estimate, however they stipulate that the figure rises to 16% for people who begin using the drug in adolescence, and as high as 50% for people who use the drug daily. As well as an increased chance of addiction, people who begin using marijuana in adolescence are also more likely to experience long-term effects, as the brain is still developing during this time.

Example How Marijuana Addiction Works

These estimates make marijuana substantially less addictive than alcohol and nicotine, as well as many illegal drugs of abuse. However, if a person continues to use marijuana over a long period, they are likely to become reliant on some of its effects. These may include relaxation, improved sleep and improved mood. In the case of people using marijuana for medicinal reasons, they may come to depend on physical effects such as the reduction of nausea. The brain may also respond to sustained marijuana use by producing lower levels of dopamine in response to other stimuli. This may make a person less likely to respond with enthusiasm or happiness to these stimuli.

Psychological Addiction to Marijuana

Once a person has developed a dependence on a substance, it can have severe effects on their psychological well-being, their work, and their relationships. It also means that stopping use of the substance may be very difficult. Health Canada provide a set of criteria for marijuana addiction: “failing to fulfill major duties at work, home, school; giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of cannabis use; consuming it often and in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended; being unable to cut down on or control cannabis use.” People who have developed dependence on marijuana may require professional support in order to quit using it. Trafalgar Addiction Treatment’s Centres’ program for marijuana addiction treatment is discussed later in this article. We also recently published a guide on how to quit smoking weed.

Effects of Sustained Marijuana Use

Marijuana dependence can have a range of on a person’s life. Sustained use can have a negative effect on memory and concentration. If a user regularly smokes marijuana, this will have a damaging effect on their lungs. There is an established link between marijuana and psychosis, although there is still some debate among experts over the connection. Marijuana is also associated with concurrent disorders including depression and anxiety. It is also important to note that the level of THC, marijuana’s principal psychoactive constituent, has steadily and significantly increased over several decades. This increased potency means that many of marijuana’s effects have also increased. Many studies may be outdated and understate the effects.

Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana withdrawal essentially functions as a reversal of the drug’s effects. This means that users may experience anxiety, irritability and depression. As marijuana can function to suppress dreams, withdrawal may also involve intense, vivid and potentially disturbing dreams. Physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may include nausea and loss of appetite. The length of time withdrawal lasts varies depending on the person’s use. Clinicians generally estimate that symptoms last around two weeks, but some users report issues lasting for much longer. The subject of long-term effects is an area of debate, but some users may experience lasting psychological changes as a result of sustained marijuana use.

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana addiction, support is available. Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres provides dedicated, expert support to clients, giving them the best possible foundation for lasting recovery. All of our treatment methods are client-centred and evidence-based. All of our clinical staff are of at least master’s-level qualifications, making them experts in the addiction treatment field. Trafalgar offers both residential and outpatient treatment to client’s, and can tailor programs to suit the individual.

Our clinical team uses a variety of methods that have been comprehensively proven successful, including individual therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and group counselling. These methods help to identify the underlying causes and consequences of an addiction, and to develop methods to deal with them. We also provide ongoing support after initial treatment through our Aftercare and ContinUcare programs. Clients develop the skills necessary to achieve lasting recovery and restore order to their lives.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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