Is Cannabis addictive and how does it affect my body? Around for generations and available anywhere Cannabis is known to many as a light drug with little or no side effects. However, this is far from the truth.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in the UK. It comes from the hemp plant and is thought to have originated in India. Cannabis has many nicknames: it is often referred to as weed, marijuana, spliff, pot, puff, skunk, hash, dope, bud, herb, bhang, resin and sensimilla, amongst many others. The active ingredient in Cannabis is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and it is this that induces the “high.” THC makes users feel more relaxed, happy and “stoned.”
Cannabis and its Effects
Cannabis can make users very paranoid and anxious. It can also trigger panic attacks and decreases short term memory function. In the case of heavy or prolonged use, cannabis can cause immediate and acute psychotic episodes. It may trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions. Also common are hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t actually there.) delusions (believing things that aren’t actually true) and abnormal behaviour.
Approximately one in ten people who smoke cannabis may become addicted or reliant upon it. Cannabis is considered less addictive than caffeine, alcohol or heroin, but on a par with tobacco. It is thought that the psychological effects are the most addictive and this is the main barrier to someone stopping.
The Risks of Addiction
If you think you have a problem with cannabis, you probably do. Cannabis addiction is not to be taken lightly. It can affect your personal life, work and relationships and cause a considerable burden on finances. It also takes a toll on your physical health.
Whilst the research on cannabis’ effects on health is limited, it poses much of the same risks as smoking tobacco. If the user mixes the cannabis with tobacco in order to smoke, then they may become addicted to the nicotine too. Cannabis produces about 4 times as much tar as tobacco.
Cannabis and the Law
In the UK, Cannabis is a Class B drug. If you are caught by the police in possession of cannabis, you can be arrested even if it is the first time you have been found with the drug. You could face a fine or a criminal record. Supplying cannabis, which includes giving it to friends or family, can carry a 14 year prison sentence.
Cannabis withdrawal symptoms are mild and have only recently been recognised officially by the medical profession. The detoxing user may experience mood swings, irritability or anger as they withdraw from the drug. Weight loss and a decreased appetite are common (cannabis is a known appetite stimulant). In severe cases, vomiting, stomach pains, headaches, fever and chills may result.
These symptoms usually pass after a week or two, but it is usually the psychological rather than the physiological addiction that is much harder to break. Cannabis is often used as an escape from everyday life, and until the reasons are addressed and the routine of smoking cannabis is broken, any attempts at quitting are likely not to succeed. Counselling and therapy are very effective in helping stop smoking cannabis.
There is help available both on the NHS and privately. Self-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous are also helpful – their only membership requirement is a desire to give up drugs. No membership fees or dues are collected: rehabilitation should be available for everyone regardless of income or status.
The page was written by Kelly, a UK based writer who has a degree in psychology and addiction behavioural therapy.
Photo By Ivy Dawned