Cannabis, known as marijuana, weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, and Mary Jane is a derivative of the plant Cannabis sativa. Cannabis can be smoked in rolled cigarettes known as joints, pipes, bongs, or blunts. Cannabis can be mixed with tea or food.
Cannabis contains many chemical compounds including the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive compound responsible for the intoxicating effect it is most sought after.
THC has a chemical structure similar to a brain chemical known as anandamide. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter in the brain capable of affecting parts that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration and, perception of time and space. THC, similar in structure to anandamide, activate these cannabinoid receptors, causing a similar effect. THC also affects the brain’s reward system releasing dopamine, which leads to addiction over time.
Effects of Cannabis
The compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in cannabis is responsible for its psychoactive potential. Although the effects perceived vary from person to person, the common effects THC produces are;
• Sense of happiness
• Mild hallucinations
• Reduced anxiety
• Increased appetite
Cannabis Addiction, Dependence & Withdrawal
Cannabis, like any other drug, has the potential to develop into an addiction. While some users can pick up, and put down cannabis relatively easily, that is not the case for everyone. For some, cannabis use can lead to a difficult life with addiction.
Factors that determine the risk of addiction, are not limited to the social setting of the user.
• Age - most likely to develop an addiction to cannabis during 18-30 years
• Mental health conditions - individuals with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or schizophrenia have a high tendency to develop an addiction, especially when cannabis is used without a prescription or illegally. Cannabis can provide quick relief from anxiety and then the tolerance sets in.
• Environment & social life - being around people who consume cannabis often can add to that peer pressure and ultimately tempt you to try the drug.
• Stress - this is a common cause of why students use cannabis. Cannabis is sought out as a stress reliever, and to get rid of anxiety.
• Family & workplace problems.
• Having a responsible life with family and occupation responsibilities, and a strong social network can be protective and reduces the risk of addiction.
Signs, Symptoms & Complications of Cannabis Addiction
The increasing THC content of cannabis products contributes to increased intoxication and related risk and dependence.
• Declining performance at work or in school, including frequent absences.
• Bloodshot eyes, dry mouth
• Changes in appetite
• Fatigue, lethargy, excessive sleepiness
• Impaired balance, lack of coordination, lack of grooming and hygiene
• Problems with concentration or focusing
• Poor judgment
• Indecisiveness, dramatic mood swings
• Agitation, irritability, and paranoia
• Withdrawal from family and friends
• Legal issues
• Family problems, problems in relationships
• Diminished self-esteem and persistent sense of hopelessness
• Although there is no risk of overdosing, marijuana comprises the second highest rates of emergency room visits caused by abusing an illicit substance. This is due to accidents that occurred during intoxication.
• A gateway to other drugs of abuse such as cocaine.
Withdrawal symptoms are felt by the user upon discontinuation of the drug. This is a major obstacle in the management of cannabis addiction. Symptoms of cannabis withdrawal can vary from person to person. Following are some of the common symptoms;
• Strong urge to use cannabis
• Insomnia or hypersomnia
• Lack of concentration, agitation, and irritability
• Loss of appetite and sexual dysfunction
Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis
Cannabis is prescribed in different parts of the world for its therapeutic effects. THC containing products such as Dronabinol and nabilone are used in the palliative treatment of advanced stages of cancer to relieve nausea and vomiting.
Spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis are treated with Nabiximols which is a THC containing product.
Childhood seizures are treated with Epidiolex in a controlled manner to ensure the associated benefits are achieved without risk.
There is much controversy against laws for and against the legalisation of cannabis in the international community. However, the fact remains that cannabis is addictive, and addiction to any substance can be detrimental to the health of the individual.
"The ASV Rehab at Home program provides evidenced based drug treatment and alcohol rehab options across Melbourne, Victoria. Developed to meet an identified need within the Victorian community, our support programs provide any person, including the families of addicts, with genuine opportunities at positive change (recovery)." - Jase Bowman - ASV CEO - Drug and Alcohol Rehab Services - Melbourne.