Is weed addictive?
Yes. Believe it, or not, weed IS addictive.
Contrary to popular belief weed is both mentally and physically addictive. The longer you abuse weed, the greater your chances of developing an addiction. However, while new research exists to promote the benefits of weed, weed CAN be addictive and can affect your work, social and home life. So just what makes weed addictive? How does marijuana work in the body? And how do you know that you’ve become addicted to weed, or not? We review these questions here and invite your questions about the addictive potential of weed at the end.
What is weed used for?
Weed, a street name for marijuana, is not a substance that is formally regulated by the federal government. However, some state governments have made marijuana legal and weed can be prescribed to treat many medical conditions. While weed is used for medical purposes, use of weed is under the discretion of each individual and his or her physician. People diagnosed with cancer, auto-immune system disorders, and other conditions can efficiently use weed to treat pain, insomnia, nausea, and to stimulate appetite.
Otherwise, weed is considered an illicit drug. In fact, weed is considered the most commonly abused illicit drug in the U.S. with some 17.4 million users. People use weed for the high it creates. But marijuana can creates different highs depending on the strain and the cultivation of the plant matter being used. Weed, like cigarettes and alcohol has become a popular party and relaxation drug and use is on the rise among young populations.
What is weed made of?
Weed is a greenish-gray mixture of plant material consisting of; stems, seeds, shredded leaves, and flowers which all come from the marijuana plant. All or some of these parts are dried and rolled into joints or packed into bongs and pipes or are cooked in food. Other times weed may be brewed like a tea. The main psychoactive ingredient found in weed is called THC, an abbreviation for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Because of the way that THC reacts on the body and brain, weed is in its own classification of drugs known as cannabis. The THC that is in weed is immediately released into the body when you smoke it, creating different types of highs. Furthermore, the levels of THC that accumulate in fat cells determine how long does weed stay in your system.
How addictive is weed?
Weed is fairly addictive. The bottom line is that weed can trigger euphoric effect. When people smoke weed, the THC in the marijuana travels directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the nerve endings in the brain. These receptors regulate memory, coordination, higher cognitive function, and the pleasure receptors. Weed also affects the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain and in effect disrupts these various processes, thus producing a high. Over time, overstimulation of the brain can alter CBR receptors, which leads to physical dependence on weed and addiction.
Weed dependence vs. addiction
To understand how you can get addicted to weed, we must first define physical dependence on a drug and compare it with addiction to a drug. To be clear, dependence on weed is different than addiction to weed. So, what is weed dependence?
When there is a presence of any substance in the body, the body naturally alters and changes to accommodate its interactions in the body. This occurs with THC, too. When you are dependent on THC, you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking weed. In fact, withdrawal is a way that the body re-regulates its normal body function and re-establishes balance without the presence of weed. So withdrawal symptoms that occur when you lower weed dosage or stop taking weed completely are a clear sign your body is dependent on weed.
On the other hand, addiction to weed is characterized by a compulsive need to use weed. The difference between dependence and addiction is usually psychological. Weed users rationalize drug use regardless of any negative consequences. Many times people feel they need weed in order to get through the day or function. And while tolerance and dependence are separate conditions, usually both are present during addiction.
How do you get addicted to weed?
Abuse of marijuana leads to marijuana addiction. In other words, smoking or eating weed to get high puts you at risk of marijuana addiction. There are several ways you can abuse and get addicted to weed.
1. Binge smoking
2. Experimenting with weed types and other drugs simultaneously
3. Using different types of weed for different uses
4. Using larger amounts of weed over longer periods of time
Signs of weed addiction
Sometimes it can be difficult to notice the signs of weed addiction. Many people can use weed for a long time without the presence of withdrawal symptoms or developing a physical dependence of weed on the body. Possible signs of addiction include that following:
- excessive time and energy getting and recovering from the drug
- needing to self-medicate
- persistent desire to quit or cut-down with little success
- rationalizing drug use
- using weed regardless of the presence of negative consequences
- withdrawal symptoms which occur when you cut back or stop using weed
Weed addiction potential questions
Compared to other drugs, weed does take longer to develop dependence and addiction. But then intensity and potency of THC content has increased over the years as it has been in circulation, increasing the addictive potential of weed. Adolescents are much more susceptible to weed addiction as their brains have not fully developed even into the late teen years. When adolescents use weed, they can forever alter neural (nerve) pathways that will never again regain their normal function. Memory and executive functioning are a couple alterations that can occur with the repetitive use of weed.
Do you still have questions about the addiction potential of Weed? Please leave your questions, comments or feedback here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. And if we do not know the answer to your particular Weed question, we will refer you to someone who does.
Reference Sources: HHS: Testimony on Weed
Drug Abuse: Marijuana Abuse
Drug Abuse: How does Marijuana use effect your body and brain
Medline Plus: Marijuana
Photo credit: National Institute of Drug Abuse