The Rise in Global Cannabis Consumption
Over the last decade, the world has witnessed a steady rise in the consumption of cannabis – especially recreationally. While the consumption of cannabis is not new, the legalisation of recreational cannabis in many parts of the world has led to a rise in consumption.
Even with the popularity of pro-cannabis movements, many health practitioners and government officials have continued to express their increasing concerns about legalising cannabis for recreational use. Many maintain that the legalisation of a psychoactive substance as powerful as cannabis for recreational use could be opening a gateway to even more harmful substances in society.
While these concerns have done nothing to reduce the impact of pro-cannabis movements, they have brought up important concerns for cannabis consumers and society at large. Many consumers are beginning to seek knowledge concerning the addictive potential of their favourite psychoactive substance.
Will the legalisation of cannabis worldwide make a dangerously addictive substance available to the public? Is marijuana truly addictive and just how hard is it to stop using cannabis – especially if it becomes widely available?
Is Marijuana Truly Addictive?
According to the National Cancer Institute, "Although cannabinoids are considered by some to be addictive drugs, their addictive potential is considerably lower than that of other prescribed agents or substances of abuse."
A cannabis consumer smoking. Source
Understanding the Risks: Cannabis Addiction vs. Dependence
Understanding the difference between an addiction and dependence can aid marijuana users in recognising and gauging how much effort they would need to put in to successfully quit the habit.
The major difference between dependence and an addiction is that dependence is usually physical while an addiction is psychological.
Physical dependence is natural and expected when individuals are exposed regularly to a psychoactive substance like cannabis.
Dependence is expected to occur in individuals who use marijuana daily but the rate at which it occurs varies according to the individual. Studies have proven that up to 30% of regular marijuana users develop some form of dependency to the drug.
Physical dependence is often marked by:
- Tolerance to the substance, and;
- Withdrawal effects such as irritability, anxiety, decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, and mood swings.
Addiction can be an uglier side to cannabis dependence. Addiction goes beyond physical dependence and affects an individual’s psychological state. In a state of addiction, cannabis consumers are utterly obsessed with ingesting the substance. Individuals experience uncontrolled cravings to feel the euphoria and elation characterised with consuming cannabis. While addiction is viewed as an uglier side of dependency, it is possible to experience addiction without any physical dependence symptoms. Addiction occurs mostly in the mind.
How Hard Is It to Stop Using Cannabis?
Unlike dealing with other psychoactive substances, individuals planning on kicking the habit of marijuana are in for more of a mental struggle than a physical one.
Even if cannabis addictions are light compared to addictions to substances like opioids, cigarettes, alcohol and prescription drugs, it would be foolish to think that quitting marijuana is always instant and easy.
The degree of difficulty needed to quit marijuana varies according to each individual but can be influenced by certain factors such as frequency of consumption. Consumers that use cannabis frequently and multiple times a day often find it more difficult to quit that individuals who use cannabis sparingly.
A cannabis ‘joint’. Source
Tips to Aid Quitting Cannabis
There are a number of reasons cannabis consumers would want to quit the habit completely. It is common for consumers to draw back because they feel like they have lost control of the habit. Whatever your reason for quitting may be, here are some tips to ease your transition:
- Quitting “Cold Turkey” – For users who do not use cannabis regularly, quitting “cold turkey” should be relatively easy and achievable. However, in frequent users, dropping a habit instantly may be more physically and mentally strenuous. In frequent users, it is advised to gradually reduce regular consumption until levels are low enough that it’s easy to stop altogether.
- Medical Aid – Though not as extreme as rehab, cannabis consumers seeking to quit the habit can seek the help of medical practitioners. While there are currently no medications that can be prescribed to stop marijuana dependence, there are some that can help the process.
- Rehab – In more extreme cases, individuals can seek out aid from rehabilitation centres. Rehabilitation centres often cost a lot of money and require a bulk of time invested.
While marijuana can be difficult for some people to quit, it is far less problematic than most other substances – even some which are legally available. People wishing to quit marijuana should think about how dependant they are, and whether it will cause them hardship to stop immediately. If people do have any trouble quitting, there are resources that can help such as medical professionals, counsellors and even rehab in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary. While any drug has the potential for abuse, marijuana is not among the most addictive substances and most people can give marijuana up without extensive hardship.