Cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, is considered the most commonly used illegal substance in the world. Cannabis dependence is a problem that has psychiatric implications, and therefore is a psychiatric diagnosis. To many people, cannabis seems relatively harmless even with prolonged use. After all, it does help people with chronic pain, including pain from certain cancers. While cannabis does have appropriate medical uses and is used recreationally by many, it can cause problems in personal relationships, work, school and personal health.
Symptoms of Cannabis Dependence
- Compulsive seeking and use of cannabis
- Tolerance of effects, requiring more and more to feel “high
- Symptoms of withdrawal upon quitting use
- Respiratory problems like chronic bronchitis
- Damage to lung tissue
- Increase in heart rate and blood pressure (especially if cannabis is combined with another drug such as cocaine)
- Impaired memory and learning skills
- Negative effects to family, relationships, work and school
- Legal problems related to cannabis
- Desire to quit use, with failed attempts
Causes of Cannabis Dependence
Cannabis-related disorders share many of the same root causes with other addictive substances. The initial desire for a “high,” combined with the widely held perception that cannabis use is not dangerous, often leads to experimentation in the teen years. Certain factors increase the risk of developing dependence. Heavy users of cannabis increase their risk, as they tend to require more of the drug to feel its effects. Or perhaps they use it more frequently throughout a day to cope with stress or to make their day more enjoyable. Extended and excessive use like this can lead to dependence.
Treatment of Cannabis Dependence
Treatment for cannabis dependence is much like treatment for any other addiction. Overcoming cannabis dependence generally requires total abstinence from the drug. Once you are dependent on a drug, it’s not really possible to go back to using it occasionally or recreationally with out becoming addicted again. Treatment for cannabis dependence can include medical attention, but one of the most important treatments is psychological therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help the cannabis addict to understand their destructive patterns, to stop them, and to develop new and healthy ways of dealing with their stress.
What Should You Do?
If you suspect that you or someone you know is dependent on cannabis, it’s important to seek help. What seems like a harmless or mild drug can cause serious health problems and many problems in an individual’s personal life. Heavy use of cannabis has been shown to reduce male fertility, decrease optimal brain function and cause lung damage, not to mention the tension or problems it can cause in relationships, work environments and so on. Talk to your regular health care provider for advice, or look up a local therapist who can help you through your addiction and into a healthier and more productive lifestyle.