Me? A Cannabis addict? This page will help you to recognise the signs, symptoms and behaviours associated with Cannabis use and abuse, understand its effects, and find help.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is a natural substance made from extracts of the Marijuana plant. It is a mild sedative which is commonly smoked to cause a chilled out and relaxed feeling.
Stronger strains of herbal cannabis such as skunk can cause the user to see objects and hallucinate, distorting their view of life around them. The main active chemical compound in Cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabis is a Class B drug, and contrary to popular belief, possession and supply is illegal. Being caught with even a small amount of Cannabis, the police have the powers to confiscate, fine and in some cases, arrest. The maximum penalty for possession can be 5 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Street names for Cannabis: Afghan, bhang, black, blast, blow, blunts, Bob Hope, bush, dagger, dope, draw, ganja, grass, hash, hashish, hemp, herb, homegrown, marijuana, Moroccan, Northern Lights, pot, puff, resin, sensi, sinsemilla, shit, skunk, smoke, soap, spliff, wacky backy, weed, zero.
What are the effects of Cannabis use?
The common effects of Cannabis use are changes to a person’s behaviour, a Cannabis user will often display signs which include –
Direct effects –
- Fits of giggles
- Chilled out
After effects –
- Mood swings
- Skunk users can display hallucinogenic effects
What is the difference between Cannabis use and Cannabis addiction?
There are warning signs that can help pinpoint whether Cannabis use has become more than just casual with friends, to a serious and harmful addiction. If you display THREE or more of these characteristics, it may mean you are addicted.
The major signs include –
- Constantly thinking about the next joint
- Losing interest in other activities
- All free time being spent using Cannabis
- If larger amounts are now needed since first use
- Becoming on edge when running out of Cannabis
- Trying to quit the habit but then return to using
What are the health risks of Cannabis use or Cannabis addiction?
Regular Cannabis use for long periods of time can mean users run the risk of serious psychical and mental health problems.
Some people may think Cannabis is a harmless drug but it is very similar to tobacco and research has shown that Cannabis contains at least as many cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco, and the fact that Cannabis is often smoked without filters it can cause lung disease and through heavy prolonged use – cancer. Other psychical risks can include –
- Nicotine addiction
- Co-ordination can be greatly affected, which is why drug driving is just as illegal as drink driving
- Risk of throat and lung diseases like bronchitis
- Cannabis can also make it harder to have children as it can reduce sperm motility for men, and for women it can suppress ovulation, all of which lower fertility
Cannabis use not only affects your body physically but it also affects your mind ranging from short term issues to causing severe mental health problems. Cannabis abuse can trigger mental health issues if there are any existing mental health problems in your family history, which in the short term can cause paranoia but in the long term it can develop a high risk of schizophrenia, especially when using strong herbal Cannabis such as skunk. Other mental health problems that can occur through Cannabis use include –
- Losing motivation for hobbies or activities
- Loss of concentration
- Can stop medication for an existing mental health illness working
- Being more likely to relapse after using cannabis for long periods of time
- Memory loss
- Trigger for psychotic illness such as schizophrenia
Why do people who use Cannabis become addicted?
People often become addicted to Cannabis because of the effects can have pleasurable consequences or ‘highs’, which include –
- Feeling relaxed
- Making you feel happy and chilled out
- Heightened senses
Despite experiencing these ‘highs’ there is a good chance of experiencing the ‘low’ sides of the drug, such as –
- A feeling of paranoia
- Feeling confused
- Aggravating asthma
- Affecting your blood pressure and temperature
- Experiencing hallucinations with stronger Cannabis
Cannabis addiction can be influenced by a number of things, such as, the length of time using, how much is used, and the strength of Cannabis. Some individuals are prone to being more dependent on Cannabis than others. Stopping regular use may lead users to experience withdrawal symptoms which for some may be no worse than a case of flu, for others, they may experience stronger withdrawal symptoms such as–
- Cravings for Cannabis
- Changes in mood
- Sweating, shaking and diarrhoea
- Dramatic weight loss
How do you tackle Cannabis addiction?
The most important thing in tackling Cannabis addiction is to first recognise you have a problem. Making a conscious effort to stop or cut down is the biggest step.
Across the UK, there are services available that offer free, confidential advice e.g. Talk to Frank, who will be able to provide confidential advice and make a referral to a professional organisation that can provide treatment and recovery.
Methods of treatment can differ, such treatments range from counselling, detoxification, medication and rehabilitation; all of which depend on the user. Treatment for Cannabis use differs from such drugs as Heroin, in that there is no proven medication route to treat Cannabis abuse.
However, one form of treatment that has been successful in tackling Cannabis addiction is detoxification. The main chemical compound in Cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is stored in the fat cells of the body, so any activity which raises the body’s metabolism will flush the THC from the body. Exercise of any type will burn these fat cells containing the THC; also drinking green tea is for its fat burning properties.
What support is there for families and friends of Cannabis users?
”Drug use affects the whole family, not just the user. When there’s a drug user in the family, whether it is a child or parent, everyone suffers and it can be so crippling that family members suffer as much as the user.
For those living close to a dependent drug user, trying to find help can be frustrating. It often seems that support is geared towards the user, when families struggle through problems too.
Fortunately there are support groups for family members too.
There are a number of groups whose sole focus is the support of family members and friends who have been affected by substance abuse and help address these issues.
One organisation that can help specifically with families and friends of drug users is Families Anonymous, who provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drug use.”
The Inexcess Support Directory lists more than 1600 service providers throughout the UK and is divided by region to help support and advise people how to find help in their own area. Click here to visit the Support Directory.