Signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction

When your loved one comes home after an evening out with friends, sporting bloodshot eyes, behaving in a ‘silly’ way and displaying poor coordination, it’s reasonable to suspect they might have been using cannabis. The question then becomes, how should you react to this? Is it fair to jump to conclusions about addiction, or could this be an instance of harmless fun?

Recognising a cannabis addiction isn’t always straightforward. In this blog, we aim to clarify the distinction between casual cannabis use and when it becomes a concern.

Dealing with the societal shift on cannabis

In recent years, the laws surrounding cannabis have changed dramatically. There’s a growing consensus in the medical and scientific communities that supports the use of cannabis, especially for pain relief. Research also points to its potential benefits for cancer patients and those dealing with mental health issues like PTSD.

Public advocates of cannabis often highlight its natural origins and the fact that it hasn’t been linked to any deaths. Yet, this perspective doesn’t fully address the complexity of the issue. As cannabis becomes decriminalised in many places, a new challenge has emerged.

The enjoyment of cannabis for its recreational effects might lead some to believe it’s safe to use regularly without the risk of addiction or other problems.

This situation underscores the need for vigilance regarding cannabis use among our friends and family. It’s crucial to recognise the signs of use early to prevent potential addiction—a serious and often overlooked risk.

What’s the difference between ‘normal’ cannabis use and problematic cannabis use?

Recognising the difference between ‘normal’ and problematic cannabis use is crucial, regardless of whether you’re a regular user, use it recreationally or have never tried it but are concerned about someone who does. Unlike over-the-counter medications, which come with clear dosages and usage instructions to prevent overdose, cannabis often lacks these guidelines, making it challenging to determine safe use levels.

To address this issue and promote responsible use, it’s important to understand the signs of problematic cannabis use and how it can be differentiated from casual or medicinal usage.

FactorNormal cannabis useProblematic cannabis use
Frequency of useOccasional use that does not interfere with daily responsibilities.Frequent or daily use, often to the exclusion of other activities.
Reason for useUsed recreationally or medicinally without negative consequences on social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.Used to escape from problems, to cope with negative emotions or in response to dependency.
Impact on daily lifeDoes not significantly impair social, occupational or educational functioning.Leads to significant impairment or distress in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
DependencyNo dependency, users can go without cannabis without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.Development of cannabis dependency, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using.
Health effectsMinimal adverse health effects with responsible use. Potential therapeutic benefits for some medical conditions.Potential for adverse health effects, including mental health issues (e.g., anxiety, paranoia), respiratory problems and increased risk of dependency.
Social and legal consequencesUse within legal boundaries and social acceptance.Possible legal issues, financial problems or strained relationships due to use.
Ability to quit or reduce useCan easily decide to quit or reduce use without significant effort or discomfort.Difficulty quitting or controlling use despite wanting to reduce consumption or experiencing negative consequences.

Note: The two sections can intertwine and possibly still indicate a cannabis addiction. As an example, even without facing legal issues or social backlash, someone might still have a hard time cutting down or stopping their cannabis use altogether. This overlap shows how tricky it can be to spot a marijuana addiction, emphasising the need to look at how it affects personal habits and daily life, not just the external consequences.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to dive a little deeper into marijuana addiction signs in order to be more competent in spotting the key signs.

Signs and symptoms of a cannabis addiction

Experiencing withdrawal from cannabis

When you stop or cut back on using cannabis, you might notice some uncomfortable changes. This is because your body has gotten used to having it around to feel “normal.” You could find yourself feeling more irritable, going through mood swings, having trouble sleeping, experiencing changes in your appetite and feeling physically off. For example, someone who regularly uses cannabis to sleep might find themselves unable to fall asleep or stay asleep without it, experiencing significant restlessness or potentially insomnia.

Impact on mental health

Using cannabis frequently and for a long time could make mental health problems worse or even induce them, especially in people who are more likely to experience issues like anxiety, depression or psychosis. It’s a complicated relationship. Some people might start using cannabis to help with feelings of anxiety or depression, but over time, it could make those feelings stronger, trapping them in a tough cycle that’s hard to escape from.

Social and legal troubles

Using cannabis often can also create problems in your social life or with the law. It could mean running into issues with your friends and family or finding yourself in legal hot water for things like having cannabis on you or driving under the influence. These issues usually arise because using cannabis starts to take over daily life, leading to missed family gatherings or social events or making risky choices while high.

Challenges with cutting back or quitting

Many of those who have been using cannabis for a long period find it hard to use less cannabis or to stop altogether, even when they know it’s causing problems in their lives. This struggle is a clear sign of addiction. It’s when you really want to quit or cut back but find it tough to do so. You may have tried to quit several times but ‘falling off the wagon’ because of strong cravings, withdrawal symptoms or because you haven’t found other ways to deal with stress and anxiety.

Regular or everyday consumption

The more you use cannabis, the more your body gets used to it, leading to a need for larger amounts to feel the same effects. This can quickly turn from using it now and then at parties, for example, to feeling like you need it every day to unwind or feel “normal.” This shift is a strong indicator of dependency, showing that what was once a casual habit has become a necessary part of your daily routine.

Using cannabis as a way to escape problems

Many people start using cannabis as a way to deal with stress, anxiety or sadness. It might seem helpful at first, offering a temporary getaway from troubles. However, leaning on it as an escape can stop you from finding effective, healthy ways to handle these issues. For example, using cannabis to dodge personal challenges or to shut out difficult feelings can, over time, make these problems worse and make the dependency on cannabis even stronger.

Impact on everyday life

It’s a serious concern when using cannabis begins to disrupt your day-to-day life, especially your work, education or family life. This issue can show up in several ways, like skipping work, underperforming at your job or school or, neglecting your family because you’re high or recovering from being high. If you find yourself missing important obligations or letting down people you care about because of cannabis, it might mean that your use has crossed over into addiction territory.

My loved one is showing signs of cannabis addiction; what can I do?

If, after reading these key signs of cannabis addiction, you feel that your loved one may be showing signs of marijuana addiction, it’s important to get help as soon as possible—one effective way to do this is through a cannabis rehab programme at a centre or cannabis rehab clinic.

Cannabis rehab centres, like UKAT, help people overcome their addiction through a mix of support and education. Starting with evaluating each person’s needs and sometimes offering detox help. Therapies like one-on-one counselling and group sessions dig into the root causes of addiction, while educational workshops teach about cannabis’s impact and how to avoid relapse. Advice and techniques on handling cravings and situations that might tempt them to use again are also provided.

Plus, with aftercare support and community groups, these centres ensure that people have the ongoing support they need to stay on the straight and narrow, tackling both the mental and physical sides of addiction recovery.

For further support and advice on what to do next in this situation, make sure to contact UKAT as soon as possible for the best chance of recovery.

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