Whether or not you can develop an addition to marijuana has been a hot topic of debate in the online recovery community lately. In fact, members have recently been discussing it more recently on on our free drug addiction and recovery discussion forum. Is marijuana addiction a real phenomenon? What is the difference between cannabis and marijuana? Is marijuana even a drug or is it just a plant? Can you become dependent on marijuana? What’s the difference between addiction and dependence? Should marijuana be legalized and does it contain medical value? What are the short-term and long-term affects of marijuana? Is smoking marijuana a big deal? After all, it’s not heroin and it won’t kill me, right? There are a whole lot of questions surrounding the topic of marijuana and whether or not you can become addicted to it. This article addresses and answers a lot of these questions and more.
A Brief Reminder and Definition for Addiction and Dependence
Addiction is a disease that alters the brain chemically and structurally. This change occurs when someone with a genetic predisposition to the disease of addiction indulges in any substance or activity (that becomes the “object of addiction”) that touches the pleasure center of the brain a certain way. Addiction always is accompanied by an object, which I often refer to as the “object of addiction”. An object of addiction can be a substance or an activity. That’s why replacing the term “addiction” with substance-use disorder or SUD doesn’t make sense. These terms are not synonymous. A substance-use disorder (SUD) is a more specific classification of addiction. But since individuals can become addicted to acitivites such as gambling, risky or unprotected sex typically with multiple partners and even work, the term substance-use disorder just isn’t fitting. Addiction is the broad word to define the disease. A Substance-use disorder could potentially replace the term or phrase “drug addiction”, but not “addiction” in general.
Dependence can be defined as the body’s physical reliance on a particular substance, so much so that without it, the body will go into some kind of “shock” and withdrawal. Also, being dependent on a substance is associated with the need to use a particular substance to feel normal. Those dependent on a particular substance build a tolerance and become guarded to the affects of the substance, likely making it extremely difficult to experience the “high” they used to acquire when they started using it.
Dependence is often mistaken for addiction, probably because often (but not always), they go hand in hand. Many people who are addicted to a particular substance also become dependent on it and vice versa. But this isn’t always the case. For instance, you can’t become physically dependent on a gambling addiction. In other words, there is no physical withdrawal if you stop gambling, although you may experience intense mental urges, anxiety and depression if you are forced to stop. But that’s because of the addiction, not dependence. The easiest way to differentiate between addiction and dependence is to remember that addiction has to do with effects on the brain and dependence is associated with effects on the body. See “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference” for more information.
Why Do People Become Addicted to Some Drugs and Not Others?
Now, not everyone with a genetic predisposition to addiction will become addicted to everything they try or use. Some people develop an addiction to Xanax or Klonopin (medications in the benzodiazepine family typically prescribed for anxiety) while others with a genetic predisposition will not. Like anything else, individuals have certain tastes (likes and dislikes). Some people love chocolate while others may prefer vanilla. Not every substance touches the pleasure center of the brain of each individual in a way that creates the onset of addiction. That’s why someone with a heroin addiction may try Xanax and decide it’s not for them while someone else with a heroin addiction may become addicted to both. Not everyone who tries heroin becomes addicted either. That’s why literature, articles and documentation will say that a particular substance may include a high “potential” for abuse and addiction. The word “potential” is the key word. It really depends on each individual’s tastes and whether or not they possess a genetic predisposition to addiction
Can You Become Addicted to Marijuana?
Simply put, yes, you can develop a marijuana addiction. Marijuana is a mind-altering substance that when smoked or consumed through edibles is accompanied by a feeling of euphoria and changes to thinking and behaviors. When consumed by those with a genetic predisposition to addiction, the potential for becoming addicted is present. Not everyone who smokes becomes addicted in the same way that not everyone who drinks alcohol becomes an alcoholic. This is just as I’ve described above. But the potential for addiction to marijuana certainly exists. Those who say otherwise are mistaken or misinformed.
Because marijuana isn’t as dangerous as heroin, opiates, cocaine, benzodiazepines and others, many underestimate the seriousness of a marijuana addiction. Those addicted to marijuana may also make excuses as to why they’re not using “drugs”. They say they’re just smoking a plant or that because it’s not as dangerous as other illicit drugs like heroin and crack, that it’s really no big deal. But those who continuously smoke marijuana can suffer from short-term and long-term affects from the substance. And many who continuously smoke marijuana have become and are addicted to it, whether or not they want to admit it.
Can You Become Physically Dependent on Marijuana
Though many who smoke or consume edible marijuana on a semi-regular basis do not become physically dependent on it, dependence on marijuana is a very real phenomenon. Long story short, a dependence on marijuana means that a person needs to smoke or consume marijuana to feel “normal”. Symptoms of marijuana dependence typically include the following. Note that the below is true of becoming dependent on any substance, not just marijuana.
1. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms occur such as irritability, trouble sleeping, depression, aggression and impaired appetite, etc.
2. Using more marijuana than originally intended
3. Tolerance to the effects of marijuana, in other words, you need more and more marijuana each time to obtain the desired effect
4. Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from marijuana use
5. Smoking or consuming edible marijuana even though it’s causing problems for you.
Addiction and dependence aren’t the same thing but they do work hand and hand to make stopping marijuana use very difficult. Just like any other substance abuse such as heroin addiction, breaking the chains of addiction and dependence requires, desire, hard work and perseverance.
But Marijuana Isn’t Dangerous Like Heroin, So its Safe, Right?
It’s true, marijuana is in an entirely different ballpark than heroin however, to think it’s safe is downright naïve. Marijuana includes many short-term and long-term impairments and effects that can be experienced from ongoing use. Marijuana can have long term effects on both the body and the brain. It may not be as bad as heroin, but it’s certainly not anything we advise to get involved with. Below are some of problems you will face if you become addicted and/or dependent on marijuana and don’t break-free and stop using.
1. Loss of motivation and interest in other activities
2. Short and long-term memory loss
3. Damage to the heart and lungs
4. Anxiety and depression
5. Marijuana use can trigger psychotic episodes
6. Decreased sex drive
7. Impaired coordination and skewed sensory and time perception
8. Difficulty thinking and reduced ability to solve problems
9. Shortened attention spam and decreased alertness
10. Marijuana can cause disturbed thoughts and worsen symptoms for those already suffering from schizophrenia
11. Panic attacks
12. Respiratory illness
13. Increased risks of heart attack.
14. Chronic marijuana use has been linked to mental illness such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia
Marijuana also contains 3 to 5 times more carbon monoxide and over 50% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than cigarettes. 3 or 4 joints is comparative and can cause as much lung damage as about 20 cigarettes.
Myth: Marijuana is Not a Drug, It’s a Plant
Many people argue that because marijuana comes from the cannabis plant that it’s not an actual drug. But to determine whether or not marijuana is an actual drug, we need to understand how the term “drug” is defined. This may sound kind of silly since everybody and their brother has heard of and/or even indulged in some kind of drug. But think about it – have you actually sat down and tried to write or explain the definition of a drug? Well, let’s do that now. According to dictionary.com, a drug can be defined in the following ways.
1. Pharmacology. a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.
2. A) Any substance recognized in the official pharmacopoeia or formulary of the nation. B) Any substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or other animals. C) Any article, other than food, intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals. D) Any substance intended for use as a component of such a drug, but not a device or a part of a device.
3. A habit-forming medicinal or illicit substance, especially a narcotic.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that marijuana falls into the category of drug. The fat that it comes from the cannabis plant is inconsequential. In fact, most pharmaceuticals and drugs are manufactured, produced from all-natural products. But even if it originates from an all-natural source, it can still classified as a drug if it falls into one of the above categories. Marijuana surely fits the bill!
What is the Difference Between Cannabis and Marijuana?
Cannabis is a plant and it’s technical name is cannabis sativa. it grows in the wild in many tropical and temperate areas of the world. Cannabis is quite resilient and can be grown in almost any climate. The primary interest recreational marijuana smokers is in the primary ingredient THC (delta-9 tetrahydro-cannabinol) The THC is the part of the plant that provides the “high” or feeling of euphoria that recreational marijuana consumers want. THC potency varies amongst the various cannabis products, hence the various names and types of marijuana consumers buy and sell.
Cannabis is used in three main forms. This includes marijuana, hashish and hash oil. Marijuana is made from the dried up flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It contains the least potent THC and is either smoked or made into edible products like brownies and cookies. Hashish is produced from the resin (a secreted gum) of the plant. It is dried and pressed into small blocks and smoked. It is also sometimes added to food and eaten. Hash oil is a thick oil obtained from the hashish and is smoked. Hash oil is the most potent cannabis product.
Street Names for Cannabis
Cannabis has been called by many names. This includes marijuana, weed, grass, pot, Mary Jane, hash, joints, hooch, reefers, cones, brew, ganga, mull, smoke, green, heads, buddah and dope (not to be confused with heroin which is also frequently referred to as dope).
Recreational Marijuana Vs. Medical Marijuana: Does Marijuana Have Medical Value?
The term “medical marijuana” refers to the entire cannabis plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or various symptoms. Despite popular belief, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has not recognized or approved cannabis as medicine. However, cannabinoids or the chemicals in marijuana have been scientifically studied and have led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid in pill form. These include: dronabinol and nabilone. They both contain THC. These FDA approved Cannabinoid drugs treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and help to increase appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS.
The cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids. The ones that are of most interest to scientists for potential medical benefit include THC and CBD.
Legalizing Marijuana and Excuses to Feed Marijuana Addiction
Because the marijuana plant cannabis contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses or symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes. In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use.
However, many marijuana addicts and dependents use this fact as an excuse to continue smoking recreationally and feeding their addiction. They’re also the main ones trying to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. But remember, Percocet, OxyContin and others are FDA approved pharmaceuticals with a high potential for abuse and addiction as well. That doesn’t justify using them recreationally.
Read more about the various physical, mental, and behavioral effects of marijuana in DrugFacts: Marijuana at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.
Myth: Legalizing Marijuana Means I Can Smoke As Much as I Want for Fun Right?
Like it or not, marijuana is illegal in most states for a reason. And even if it does become legal for medical purposes with a prescription, that doesn’t mean it makes smoking it recreationally any better.
After all, Percocet, OxyContin and other opiate related drugs are legal and under certain medical conditions such as chronic pain, they may be appropriate at a particular dose. But nobody in their right mind would justify recreationally popping as much oxycodone (the active ingredient in Percocet and OxyContin) as you want just because it’s “legal” a legitimate medication by prescription for a small group of individuals.
The point of legalizing marijuana is to provide those with certain medical conditions a prescription that may help reduce their symptoms. It’s not to allow marijuana enthusiasts, addicts and dependents to smoke as much as they want, when they want and “get high”.
Yes, you can become addicted to marijuana. Yes, you can become dependent on marijuana. No, it’s not legal in most states. And for those states it’s legal in, it’s not meant to be used recreationally or as an excuse to “get high”. It’s only being legalized for very specific medical conditions and must be prescribed by a physician. If opiate addicts can’t justify their addiction and recreational pill popping with the whole ” but it’s legal medication” argument, than either can marijuana addicts.
Written and Published By,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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