Cannabis, also known as marijuana is a psychoactive drug with both medicinal and recreational uses. It is the most widely used illicit drug. It is now being legalized in different countries owing to its useful properties in treating certain conditions. However, in most of the parts of the world it is still considered illegal. So what is marijuana, and how is it addictive?
The Consumption Of Marijuana
Marijuana can be taken in the body via smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract. The inhaling methods (smoking and vaporizing) are the most widely used as the effect of the drug is almost instantaneous. Cannabis is also consumed orally in the form of capsules, tinctures, or oils. The onset of action using this method is really slow, but the effect is stronger than the inhaling method and lasts longer. Other methods include sublingual and topical routes.
Different forms of cannabis are consumed in different ways. For example, marijuana is smoked in hand rolled cigarettes knows as joints or in a pipe. Hashish or hash is mixed with tobacco and smoked. Hash is also added into edibles like hash brownies, cookies or candy.
Effects Of Marijuana
Effects of marijuana can be categorized into short term effects, long-term effects and psychiatric effects. The effects of marijuana vary from person to person due to factors like gender, age, physiology, method of consumption of marijuana, dose, and potency.
So, what does it actually feels like when you’ve smoked a joint? Marijuana makes you feel out of this world like you’re in paradise. It makes you feel amused and makes you giggle. Cannabis makes you feel calm and highly sensitive to all kinds of stimuli like light, color, sound, touch, etc.
Short Term Effects
Marijuana enters the brain and binds to the cannabinoid receptors making the person feel the ‘high’ that they do. Other effects include,
- Altered senses
- Lost sense of time
- Impaired memory
- Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- Increased appetite
Long Term Effects
In the long run, marijuana affects the brain development. It highly affects the user’s cognitive functioning. The user might feel difficulty in learning, thinking and making decisions. Long term effects:
- Liver (more likely if there is concomitant hepatitis)
- Heart: marijuana increases the heart rate significantly for up to 3 hours after smoking and this increases the risk of a heart attack.
- Lungs: as marijuana is smoked most commonly, the lungs are very much affected by it. The lungs get irritated, there’s production of cough with sputum, more frequent lung infections and much more.
- Marijuana can cause intense nausea and vomiting
- Marijuana might increase the risks of certain cancers and
- May cause sexual dysfunction
Use of cannabis and developing psychosis has a strong correlation. This correlation seems to be dose dependent. Cannabis use is also associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders among majority of users.
Is Marijuana Even Addictive?
Some chronic marijuana users do develop marijuana addiction despite the general belief that marijuana is not an addictive drug. Someone who is addicted to marijuana is said to have cannabis use disorder (CUD). CUD is defined by the DSM-5 and ICD-10. An addicted marijuana user will display classical symptoms of addiction which are to always think about the drug, they’ll look out for different ways to get the drug, being anxious if they can’t find the drug and the drug will become the central part of their lives.
Marijuana Addiction Symptoms
CUD has symptoms that affect the person’s physical, emotional and psychosocial aspects of their lives. These symptoms include:
- having blood shot eyes
- impaired cognitive functions.
- CUD is also associated with certain mental issues like mood and anxiety disorders along with personality disorders.
So why is marijuana addictive? Marijuana acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain that are highly concentrated in the pleasure and reward centers. These centers are responsible to secrete dopamine, the happy hormone and a neurotransmitter. Dopamine has a wide range of functions from controlling fine motor movements to being linked with reward, pleasure, motivation, arousal and reinforcement.
So, people, especially teenagers, young adults, and struggling people are more prone to become chronic marijuana users to get away from life stressors and make them feel good about themselves.
Withdrawals From Marijuana
It is difficult for cannabis addicts to overcome their addiction. But its relatively easier compared to other drugs like heroin and alcohol. Symptoms begin about the 2nd day after stopping the drug and may go on for weeks. Symptoms include:
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of enjoyment
Is Weed A Gateway Drug?
A gateway drug is a drug that makes the user try out other more dangerous drugs. There are some marijuana users who can go onto abuse other drugs. This is most common in the younger population. As marijuana messes with the reward centers of the brain, other drugs can look more appealing to the user, eventually compelling the person to try them out and maybe in the long run becoming addicted to them.
There is enough evidence from various research and studies to support the fact that marijuana users are more likely to try other drugs, like alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamines. It is also known that cannabis makes the brain more responsive to the effects of other drugs.
So, marijuana being a gateway drug leads to a more important question: Is it actually safe to legalize cannabis across the world? Whatever your opinion on weed, the truth is, if you are a real addict, you will find a way. Marijuana is an extreme gateway drug for those who are already destined to be addicts (Sorry).
Finding help for a marijuana addiction, or if marijuana has led to more substance use, is a great first step to recovery. You may be asking yourself “where do I find a drug rehab near me?” Fortunately, there are many phenomenal drug rehab centers around your area, and licensed professionals who can help. The first step to change is reaching out!