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Understanding Cannabis Addiction

One of the challenges faced in the increasing acceptance of the use of cannabis for medical treatments as well as recreational use, is the public misperception that this is a non-addictive drug.

Leading research in the United States, the United Kingdom and around the world indicates that long-term use of marijuana can lead to cannabis addiction, commonly known in research as marijuana use disorder. However it is not a highly addictive drug, so infrequent or low-level consumption offers a relatively low risk of becoming addicted.

In studies of long-term cannabis users, data showed that about 30% had some level of marijuana use disorder. This rate became higher in groups that started using the drug before the age of 18; seven times that seen in groups who started smoking marijuana on a regular basis after that age. Overall addiction rates are more controversial, but many researchers suggest it is about 10% of the daily user population.

Symptoms and Signs

Long term marijuana users can experience some withdrawal symptoms which are compounded if other drugs or alcohol are used at the same time. Common signs are headaches, cravings, sleep problems and irritability when not using cannabis.

This is a result of the brain having shut down the production of some chemicals within the body, regularly substituting them with chemicals from the cannabis - the THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. This is the chemical in cannabis that creates the "high" associated with the drug; the TCH in marijuana is very close to naturally occurring cannabinoid chemicals in the human brain and works with the same receptors.

When smoking marijuana, the brain is flooded with TCH, which is in a much higher concentration and easier for the receptors in the brain to absorb. When marijuana is not present, the lower levels naturally produced by the human body are below the raised threshold level the user expects, causing withdrawal symptoms.

The Addiction Component

This low level of cannabinoids drives the brain to trigger the behaviour to smoke and this can quickly escalate into an all-consuming desire, even if the results of excessive smoking include such consequences as the loss of a job, loss of a partner or spouse, or the inability to perform daily activities.

To complicate matters, the development of high-potency strains of marijuana make it difficult for those using the drug to gauge how much to smoke. This can lead to much higher THC levels in the body due to the marijuana strain and amount consumed, triggering an unexpected chemical flood to the brain.

At Addiction Specialist London we offer a non-judgemental, safe, confidential and private option for the treatment of cannabis addiction or marijuana use disorder. Many of our clients recognise they are using inappropriately, and see the risk this behaviour has on their emotional wellbeing, their relationships and even on their future career options.

Our out-patient counselling services for cannabis addiction provide the confidential, one-on-one treatment needed to step into an addiction-free life. To find out more or to arrange a consultation with one of our experts, contact us by telephone or through our secure online contact form.

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