Cannabis Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Cannabis is a plant native to Central and South Asia. It contains chemical compounds which have mind-altering effects. Cannabis is often used as a recreational drug, but can also be used for medical purposes, in particular, for pain management.

Cannabis use induces a feeling of being high because of its main active ingredient, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis is the third most used addictive drug, after tobacco and alcohol. It has a high potential for abuse and is illegal in most states.

Recognizing the Signs of Cannabis Addiction

Recognizing the Signs of Cannabis Addiction
When you are using cannabis, you inevitably start to display uncharacteristic behaviors and moods. Recognizing the signs early could help to combat your addiction and make it easier to break away from your dependency. There are a few common signs that you may exhibit. Physically, you may get bloodshot eyes, and seem tired and lethargic. Other signs include:

  • Being incapable of stopping or reducing drug use
  • Slowed reaction time, impaired coordination
  • Reduced motivation; loss of interest in favorite activities, sleeping longer hours.
  • Zoning out in the middle of conversations; when high on cannabis, you’ll find it hard to follow a conversation
  • Memory impairment
  • Anxiety, nervousness, and sometimes paranoia
  • Poor judgment as cannabis impairs your clarity of thought
  • Warped perception of reality
  • Obsessing about the next time you can consume cannabis
  • Becoming withdrawn from those around you
  • Lying about the extent of your cannabis use

Symptoms of Cannabis Abuse

Although cannabis is now legal in several US states, this does not mean it is safe. Cannabis poses serious health risks to the mind and body and certain symptoms may appear. These symptoms can have both long and short term effects. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Impaired lung health: cannabis smoke contains toxins and carcinogens. It can cause chronic intense coughing, phlegm production, and even acute bronchitis.
  • Detrimental effects on brain health: cannabis can seriously impair cognitive function. It can also affect brain development and cause loss of IQ points, particularly in subjects under 18.
  • Impacted driving ability: cannabis slows reaction times and impairs perception, making driving dangerous.
  • Impacted mental health. Cannabis can cause paranoia and contribute to psychosis and schizophrenia. It can also aggravate certain pre-existing mental health conditions.

Diagnosing Cannabis Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) identifies cannabis as an addictive drug. Substance Use Disorder is a recognized and diagnosable medical condition. Although cannabis addiction may be more progressive than addiction to alcohol, cocaine, or opioids, it is highly habit-forming and intervention is often required to beat the addiction.

If you feel you have developed a dependency then there is an assessment process using the DSM-5 that can diagnose the level of addiction. If you answer “yes” to two or more of the following, it can indicate a moderate SUD, and six or more positive answers suggests a severe SUD.

  • Are you unable to control the quantity of cannabis you are consuming?
  • Are you unable to cut down on the quantity you are taking?
  • Do you have intense cravings for cannabis?
  • Do you rely on increasingly more cannabis for the same desired effect?
  • Have you withdrawal symptoms in absence of cannabis?
  • Do you spend larger amounts of time on and recovering from cannabis?
  • Do you neglect your responsibilities as a consequence of cannabis?
  • Do you continuously use cannabis despite it causing personal life problems?
  • Have you given up other hobbies or activities to prioritize cannabis use?
  • Have you put yourself in dangerous situations for cannabis use?
  • Are you still taking cannabis even though you are noticing mental and physical side effects?

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Treating the Symptoms of Cannabis Abuse & Addiction

Currently, no FDA-approved medication exists for cannabis addiction. Treatment modalities are centered around behavioral therapies, either as outpatient treatment or in residential rehabs:

People often use substances to mask issues related to mental illness. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs is always a bad idea and risks a variety of health issues, including addiction. Addiction itself can exacerbate existing mental health issues.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): a form of psychotherapy that helps you learn greater self-awareness and self-control. This is done by identifying problematic behaviors and coping strategies, which can then be replaced by healthier choices and response patterns.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: this approach aims to connect you to your inner resources, so you can find greater motivation to engage in treatment. It is not a treatment per se, but works well to support other therapies.
  • Group therapy: this form of psychotherapy uses a group setting for you to discuss your problems, addiction, or a specific addiction-related topic, under the guidance of a therapist.

The powerful mind-altering properties of cannabis make it easy to get hooked on its psychological effects. Thankfully, there are evidence-based treatments that work.

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