October 10th, 2023
Cannabis has had a rocky history. From the days when many believed that using cannabis could lead to you violently murdering members of the public to being able to purchase the drug legally for medical issues, it certainly had its ups and downs. Recently, we’ve seen widespread legalisation, acceptance for medical use and shifting attitudes towards cannabis through various mediums. But has this come at a cost?
In today’s blog, we take a look at cannabis culture and how it could potentially pave the way for surges in cannabis addiction.
A brief overview of cannabis culture
Cannabis has a rich and varied history deeply intertwined with diverse cultures worldwide. To truly understand the modern relationship between cannabis culture and addiction, it’s essential to take a brief journey through its historical and cultural significance.
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes. Ancient civilisations, from the Chinese to the Egyptians, employed cannabis for its therapeutic properties. In some cultures, it held a sacred status, with rituals centred around its consumption.
Over time, perceptions of cannabis have shifted dramatically. In the early 20th century, many countries began criminalising its use due to concerns about its psychoactive effects. This marked a significant turning point in the way cannabis was viewed globally.
In the 1960s and 70s, cannabis became synonymous with the counterculture movement. It was embraced by groups advocating for social change, often as a symbol of rebellion against the status quo. This era played a pivotal role in shaping the cannabis culture we know today.
Modern cannabis culture…
Fast forward to the present, and we find ourselves in a landscape where cannabis is slowly shedding its taboo status. The acceptance of cannabis for medical and recreational use has grown substantially in various parts of the world. It’s become a fascination in popular culture, with numerous movies, music and celebrity endorsements celebrating its use.
Cultural aspects and influences
Cannabis culture is not just about the plant itself; it’s a multifaceted phenomenon deeply embedded in our society. It is heavily influenced by various cultural aspects, including music, movies, media and even laws.
Music has played a significant role in shaping cannabis culture. From the jazz and blues clubs of the 1930s, where cannabis was often present, to the rock and roll movements of the 1960s and 70s, where it was celebrated, cannabis has been a recurring theme in lyrics and lifestyles. Musicians like Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg have become iconic figures associated with cannabis, further ingraining its presence in popular culture.
Movies and television have also contributed to the normalisation of cannabis. Films like “Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke” and “Pineapple Express” have portrayed cannabis use humorously and casually. Such depictions can inadvertently downplay the potential risks of addiction and problematic consumption.
More recently, we’ve seen well-known public figures openly promote their cannabis use, some even going as far as to smoke weed on camera.
Elon Musk, for example, smoked a joint during a podcast interview with Joe Rogan, garring significant media attention. But it doesn’t stop there;
- Barack Obama: The former president of the USA admitted to smoking cannabis in his youth and wrote about it in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father.”
- Snoop Dogg: The rapper is a well-known advocate for cannabis legalisation; he openly discusses his cannabis use.
- Willie Nelson: A country music legend and cannabis enthusiast who has been vocal about his love for marijuana.
- Miley Cyrus: Openly admitted to smoking cannabis and even hosted the MTV Video Music Awards while high.
- Rihanna: Known for posting pictures of herself smoking on social media.
- Seth Rogen: An actor and comedian who has publicly discussed his cannabis use and is involved in the cannabis industry.
- Woody Harrelson: An actor and advocate for marijuana legalisation who famously smoked a joint during a live talk show.
The legalisation of cannabis in medical settings has exploded over the past ten years. In North America, medical cannabis is legal in many U.S. states, though it remains illegal at the federal level, with state-specific regulations. In Canada, medical cannabis has been legal since 2001, with a national system for production and distribution.
In Europe, Germany has a robust medical cannabis programme accessible through pharmacies. In the Netherlands, while personal cannabis use is decriminalised, medical cannabis is available for specific medical conditions.
The UK has permitted the use of cannabis-based medicinal products in specific cases since laws passed in 2018.
So, does the openness and acceptance of cannabis come with its downsides?
The ‘normalisation’ of cannabis leading to addiction
The normalisation of cannabis use has the potential to intersect with the potential for addiction in several ways. It’s important to note that while cannabis is generally considered less addictive than substances like alcohol or opioids, it is not without risks, and some individuals can develop a dependency on it.
Here are some ways in which the normalisation of cannabis can intersect with addiction:
The growing acceptance and legalisation of cannabis in various regions have led to increased availability. When a substance is readily accessible, individuals may be more inclined to try it, and some may develop a habit over time. Frequent exposure to cannabis due to its easy availability can contribute to the development of addiction.
Higher THC levels
When strains with elevated THC levels become more accessible, users may experience a stronger and more immediate high. This can lead to a higher tolerance, prompting users to consume more to achieve the desired effect, potentially increasing the risk of addiction. In fact, research has shown that before the 1990s, THC typically found in the cannabis plant contained less than 2% THC. During the 1990s, it expanded to 4% and from 1995 to 2015, there was a 212% surge in THC levels.
Medical cannabis on the black market
Even in regions where medical cannabis is legal, it can sometimes find its way onto the black market. This could create opportunities for individuals to obtain cannabis without going through the proper channels.
The availability of unregulated cannabis products on the black market may lead to inconsistent potency and quality, making it more challenging for users to gauge their consumption, potentially increasing the risk of dependency.
Celebrities and public figures who openly endorse cannabis use could influence their fans and followers. When a favourite movie star or musician expresses their love for cannabis, it could normalise its use and make it seem socially acceptable. This normalisation could lead to increased experimentation and potential addiction, especially among impressionable individuals who idolise these figures.
Self-medicating without medical advice
Some individuals experiencing conditions like depression, anxiety or pain may turn to cannabis as a means of self-medication. They might find that cannabis temporarily alleviates their symptoms. However, this self-medicating approach could be fraught with risks, particularly in regions where cannabis use for recreational purposes is not well-regulated or where it remains illegal outside specific medical conditions, such as in the UK.
The absence of professional medical guidance is a critical concern. Cannabis affects individuals differently, and there are various strains and products with varying levels of cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. Without medical advice, individuals are left to experiment with cannabis products, often without understanding their specific effects or proper dosages. This trial-and-error approach could lead to overconsumption, as individuals may consume more than necessary to achieve the desired relief, which, in turn, could contribute to the development of dependency.
When is it time to reconsider my cannabis usage?
In the world of changing cannabis laws and perceptions, it’s essential to rethink your cannabis habits periodically. If you are using cannabis, evaluating your usage is key to maintaining a responsible and healthy relationship with it. Here are five questions to help you determine if you might be dependent on cannabis:
- Are you using cannabis to cope with stress or emotional challenges on a regular basis?
- Have you noticed an increased tolerance, requiring larger amounts of cannabis to achieve the desired effects?
- Is your cannabis use interfering with your daily responsibilities, such as work, school, or relationships?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability or insomnia, when you try to cut down or quit using cannabis?
- Have you unsuccessfully tried to reduce or control your cannabis consumption despite negative consequences?
These questions can serve as a starting point for self-reflection, helping you make informed decisions about your cannabis usage.
If you have answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, it could be time to reach out for help.
How can Linwood House help with cannabis dependence?
At Linwood House, we’re here to help you overcome your cannabis dependence and regain control of your life. Our team of experts understands your challenges and is committed to guiding you toward recovery. Our experienced medical and mental health professionals can advise on the next steps.
Contact Linwood House today to start your journey to recovery.