Cannabis Addiction And Treatment

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What is Weed Addiction?

Cannabis, also known as weed, grass, dope, pot, and marijuana, is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. Popular with adolescents, it can hook you in at an early age and wreak havoc on your health, work, and relationships for the rest of your life.

Cultivated from a plant, cannabis is usually smoked, either in a cigarette or pipe, but it is also vaped, baked in cakes, or drunk in tea. It stimulates the reward system in your brain, making you feel happy and relaxed (‘stoned’). While it is used recreationally, it can also be prescribed for certain health conditions such as epilepsy.

You may not realise cannabis is addictive – it is after all a class C or ‘soft’ drug – but cannabis addiction is a serious problem, especially if you start smoking as a teenager and continue into adulthood. It has consequences for your physical and mental health and can cause irreversible damage to your brain. Cannabis abuse requires treatment in the same way any addictive drug does.

Here we explain how to spot the signs of cannabis addiction, how to seek help if you or a loved one has a cannabis addiction, the withdrawal symptoms to expect, and what treatments are available.

weed addiction

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis comes from the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant, which is a form of hemp. The plant contains a psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which targets areas in the brain that influence pleasure as well as memory and co-ordination. So while smoking a joint might make you feel happy and chilled, it can also affect your ability to remember, and leave you unsteady on your feet.

Is Cannabis Addictive?

Despite its reputation for being a harmless, non-addictive drug, cannabis can cause a great deal of damage and is definitely addictive. In fact, it is this image that pot is nothing much to worry about (aided by the fact that in the UK it was downgraded from a more serious Class B drug to a less serious Class C drug in 2001), that has led to a rise in cannabis use and a rise in cannabis addiction.

Around 9% of users will develop a cannabis addiction, which means they can’t stop taking it, they develop unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they do try, and they need more and more to get high. Cannabis addiction can also have a negative impact on work and family lives as users are often too stoned to meet their responsibilities.

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The Effects of Cannabis Abuse

Cannabis abuse can cause long-term or even permanent adverse changes to the brain with thinking ability, brainpower and memory damaged. Studies show that if you start smoking cannabis in adolescence, you can alter the structure of your brain and some areas can reduce in size.

One effect of continuing to abuse cannabis from adolescence to adulthood is a reduction of IQ scores. This means as you get older, you become less intelligent.

It also shows that even if you stopped taking cannabis later in life, those brain functions don’t restore fully. This means if you start smoking marijuana at a young age, you may damage your cognitive abilities forever. Another risk factor of smoking joints from adolescence is a greater risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.

Another effect of cannabis abuse is loss of memory. The THC in cannabis destroys the neurons in the hippocampus that retain new information. In one study, rats exposed to THC every day for eight months (around a third of their lifespan) had nerve damage usually seen in much older rats.

Cannabis is considered to be a ‘gateway drug’, which means it can lead you to harder, more addictive drugs. Adolescents who take cannabis are 104 times more likely to take cocaine than young people who don’t.

Signs and Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

If you take cannabis regularly, you might be under the impression that it isn’t doing you any long-term harm and it isn’t addictive. Unfortunately, this isn’t true so if you, or a loved one, is smoking a lot of weed, here are the signs to look out for to see if you, or they, have an addiction:

Physical Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Red bloodshot eyes
  • Poor coordination skills
  • Being unsteady on your feet
  • Feeling hungry all the time (known as having ‘the munchies’)
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor libido (lack of interest in sex and inability of men to maintain an erection)
  • Cravings for more cannabis
  • Being dirty or smelly (as you lose interest in personal hygiene)

Psychological Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

  • Inability to think clearly
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • Poor judgement (which can result in engaging in risky behaviour such as unsafe sex)
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in life (such as seeing friends)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression

Marijuana addiction has behavioural effects too. You might not be over the limit to drive if you’ve smoked cannabis, but any drug that slows your thinking and reflexes means you’re a danger on the road. In the US, the number of fatal car crashes involving a driver with cannabis in their system doubled between 2000 and 2018.

Being stoned means you may find yourself in risky situations: maybe your inhibitions are lowered and you indulge in unsafe sex or other dangerous activities that you’d never consider with a clear head.

How to Spot Cannabis Addiction in Employees

Being late or frequently absent, falling behind with workload, being unproductive, failing to attend meetings on time, being forgetful and appearing relaxed even in stressful situations, are signs that someone may have a cannabis addiction. If their role involves driving, operating machinery or caring for others, this can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

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Physical signs to look out for include an unkempt appearance with red, bloodshot eyes, dirty hair, dirty clothes, body odour and not maintaining expected standards of hygiene. Psychological symptoms that indicate a cannabis addiction include appearing overly irritable, anxious or paranoid.

If you believe someone in your workplace has a cannabis addiction, you must speak to them as you have a legal duty of care to keep them, and all other employees, safe. This doesn’t mean you must fire them – there is plenty of help available for you and them. Find out more information here.

The Health Risks of Cannabis Addiction

The health risks of cannabis addiction are not always obvious as they tend to affect the brain and its functions, including memory, cognitive ability and intelligence. However, long-term cannabis users also report more respiratory problems including bronchitis.

Heart problems are also associated with long-term cannabis use with it increasing the risk of heart attack, angina and heart disease. As it is usually smoked with tobacco, the health risks associated with smoking, such as lung disease and lung cancer, are also a concern.

Smoking weed during pregnancy can lead to smaller newborn babies but this may be because women who abuse cannabis tend to have poorer nutrition and seek less ante-natal care.

Mild developmental abnormalities have also been reported in children whose mothers smoked cannabis throughout pregnancy.

Due to the risk marijuana addiction can have on an unborn child, if you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, and you are a regular cannabis user, it is important you seek addiction treatment as soon as possible

Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

Any addictive drug can produce withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it, and cannabis is no different. The severity and duration of cannabis withdrawal symptoms depend on how long you’ve been smoking and in what quantities. They usually appear 24 to 72 hours after you’ve stopped smoking and can last for two weeks.

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Cannabis withdrawal symptoms include:

Physical Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Inability to sleep
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Having the chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Cravings for more pot

Psychological Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Psychosis (paranoia, hallucinations, altered state of mind)

Cannabis Addiction Treatment at Smarmore

Smarmore Castle residential rehab centre offers a range of cannabis addiction treatments so it is possible to find one that suits you. Just as everyone responds to addiction differently, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment programme. Each is tailor-made to suit your history of drug addiction, its effect on your and others, and your personality.

We can support you throughout the detox process and help you manage any withdrawal symptoms so you get recover safely and avoid relapse.

One-to-one addiction therapy

You are given a safe space to talk openly about your cannabis addiction and any other issues, such as depression or coping with historic abuse, that is preventing you from getting clean.

Group therapy

By meeting other people who are dealing with drug abuse, you will find support and encouragement from people who understand what you are going through.

Family Therapy

Addiction impacts everyone around you. With family therapy, you and your loved ones can talk about the effect of addiction and help rebuild fractured relationships, all the while being guided and supported by a trained therapist.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT explores the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that led to your addiction and shows you how to change them. This means instead of reaching for a joint every time you feel stressed, you learn to deal with the stress differently and in a more positive way.

At Smarmore, you will also find a range of complementary therapies including mindfulness meditation, equine therapy (working with horses), drumming therapy and aquatherapy (working with water).

If you are battling cannabis addiction alongside a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, an eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another substance use disorder, we offer a dual diagnosis treatment. Using a range of therapies, we can tackle both issues at the same time.

Treatment does not end when you end your stay with us. Our two-year continuing care plan consists of weekly drop-in therapy sessions, teletherapy (online sessions via Zoom, WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams) and helps with accessing other external support groups. This means you can continue your recovery from cannabis addiction safely and avoid relapse.                                                                                                                  

Your Next Step

Cannabis use is not harmless and it can lead to addiction. Call us now and find out how we can help you or a loved one take the first step to become drug-free for good.

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Start Your Recovery Journey with Smarmore Castle Clinic

How long is the treatment programme?

Our programmes start at four weeks but can be extended for as long as you need the support.

Will my health insurance pay for rehab?

In some cases, yes, especially if you have a diagnosed mental health condition. Contact us to see what insurance options are available to you.

Do I have to stop smoking cannabis before I get to Smarmore?

No. Our medically managed treatment plans mean we can guide you through detox safely. Come as you are. We don’t judge.

My loved one won’t go to rehab. What can I do?

Contact us. We have trained interventionists who can talk to them honestly on your behalf and encourage them to make detoxing a priority

How do I get to Smarmore?

We’re based one hour north of Dublin International Airport and we can arrange for a driver to collect you and bring you to us for FREE.

References

  1. Lafaye G, (2017), Cannabis, Cannabinoids and Health, Dialogues Clin Neurosci: 19 (3), 309-316
  2. How Does Marijuana Produce Its Effect?, (2020), Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report: National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. Hasin D S, Saha T D, Kerridge B T, et al, (2015), Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, JAMA Psychiatry: 72 (12), 1235-1242
  4. Lopez-Quintero C, de los Cobos J P, Hasin D S, et al, (2010), Probability and Predictors of Transition From First Use to Dependence on Nicotine, Alcohol, Cannabis and Cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions
  5. What Are Marijuana’s Long-Term Effects on the Brain? (2020) Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report, National Institute on Drug Abuse
  6. Meier M H, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al, (2012), Persistent Cannabis Users Show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Midlife, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 109 (40)
  7. Zammit S, Allebeck P, Andreasson S, et al (2002), Self Reported Cannabis Use a Risk Factor for Schizophrenia in Swedish Conscripts of 1969: a Historical Study, BMJ: 325 (7374), 1199
  8. Williams A R, (2020), Cannabis as a Gateway Drug For Opioid Use Disorder, J Law Med Ethics:  48 (2), 268-274
  9. Lira M C, Heeren T C, Buczek M, et al, (2021), Trends in Cannabis Involvement and Risk of Alcohol Involvement in Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities in the United States, 2000-2018, American Journal of Public Health
  10. Managing Drug and Alcohol Misuse at Work, Health and Safety Executive
  11. Hall W, Degenhardt L, (2009), Adverse Health Effects of Non-Medical Cannabis Use, The Lancet: 374, 1383-1391
  12. Shukla S, Doshi H, (2022), Marijuana and Maternal, Perinatal and Neonatal Outcomes, StatPearls Publishing, Chapter 10
  13. Bonnet U, Preuss U W, (2017), The Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome: Current Insights: Subst Abuse Rehabil, 8, 9-37
  14. Ramos B, Santos Martins A F, Lima Osório E S, (2022), Psychotic Cannabis Withdrawal: A Clinical Case, Cureus
  • How to Access Rehab With Health Insurance

    For those experiencing existing mental health conditions in Ireland, there are private medical insurers who can help you cover treatment. As addiction experts, we know that receiving the appropriate care and support when you have a mental health disorder is pivotal to attaining long-lasting recovery. Below, we will go through the various health insurance options to help you understand your options when it comes to seeking private residential care for substance abuse. Please note that there is no guarantee that you can be covered for all addiction problems as policies are always assessed on a case-by-case basis. Find Out More

  • My Loved One Doesn’t Want Help, What Do I Do?

    You can’t force someone to go to rehab. At the end of the day, it needs to be their decision because they are the ones that need to be open to turning their lives around. There are ways in which you can encourage someone to enter treatment, one of these ways is via an intervention with a trained interventionist, who facilitates an honest discussion between family members and the addict. This is something Smarmore Castle can arrange – contact us today.

  • Which Drugs Does Smarmore Castle Detox From?

    We can detox people from any drugs whether they are illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ketamine; or prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines or zopiclone, oxycodone, zolpidem, klonopin, methadone, cannabis; and legal drugs such as alcohol.

  • How Long Is the Treatment Programme?

    Our treatment programme starts at 4 weeks and is flexible in length, giving you the opportunity to extend for a longer period if you need it.

  • Do You Treat Dual Diagnosis?

    All patients are reviewed by a consultant psychiatrist in the first week and we can diagnose and provide treatment for a number of co-occurring mental health conditions.

  • Do I Need to Be Abstinent Before Admission?

    Our medically managed detoxification with 24/7 medical cover means that we can perform complete and complex detoxes at Smarmore Castle. You don’t need to be abstinent before arrival.

  • How Do I Get To Rehab Safely?

    Smarmore Castle is one hour north of Dublin international airport, please speak to our advisors if you require collection from an airport.

    We can also arrange a ‘sober transport’ service with a trusted driver, from anywhere in Ireland or Northern Ireland, at an additional cost.

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