CANNABIS (MARIJUANA) ADDICTION
At Searidge Foundation, individuals with cannabis dependency and use disorders receive quality, individually-catered treatment plans. Each plan contains a comprehensive approach with shared decision-making. Here, patient voices are heard and valued in the process of living a cannabis-free life.
CANNABIS – WHAT IS IT?
Cannabis is colloquially referred to as weed, pot, or marijuana and is comprised of two sub-species: hemp and marijuana. The latter is a psychoactive plant with a well-documented history. Initially, it was introduced to North America by travelers and labourers and was used predominantly in small social groups such as writers and artists. Oftentimes, this drug is consumed in multiple different fashions such as hashish, hash oil, or marijuana (dried leaves). Most often, marijuana is consumed through smoking by a joint, pipe, or bong. Alternatively, some individuals choose to bake it into food, which alters the active ingredients available to the brain.
CANNABIS ADDICTION – WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in Canada. Moreover, Canadian youth are the group most likely to use the drug (28%). A report from 2016 reveals that 2.5% of university students use marijuana daily in Canada. Overall, 34.5% of Canadians who have reported using marijuana in the past three months have consumed it daily. Studies reveal that some individuals use this drug to facilitate or improve social interactions or to enhance already pleasant experiences. However, others report that they use the drug to cope with negative life situations or to expand awareness (Simons et al., 1998). In fact, coping was the strongest predictor of marijuana consumption and impairment related to its use (Buckner, 2013). Despite that, cannabis is not a harmless drug. As it happens, marijuana dependence in clinical populations is quite like other substance use disorders (Budney, 2006). In other words, individuals who are dependent on cannabis continue to consume the drug despite social, cognitive, and physical impairments (i.e., problems with family and relationships, financial troubles, low energy and self-esteem, sleep and memory deficits; Gruber et al., 2003).
SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF CANNABIS USE
The extent of the short-term effects of cannabis use are contingent on the potency (i.e., amount of THC) of the drug at the time of consumption. The most common short-term effects include an altered state of mind, euphoria, pleasant sensations, heightened relaxation, loss of dexterity and coordination, impaired judgements, impaired learning and memory, extreme appetite (i.e., munchies), dry mouth, bloodshot eyes, and increased heart rate. A high dose of cannabis in a brief period of time can induce anxiety and panic attacks.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF CANNABIS USE
Those who use cannabis over the long-term can build a tolerance to the short-term effects of THC which can then result in increased consumption. Furthermore, they can develop both a physical and psychological dependence, as previously alluded to. As it happens, long-term users generally perform worse on cognitive performance tests and more seriously, they increase their risk for compromised respiratory and immune systems and lung cancer.
Endocannabinoids (i.e., naturally occurring cannabinoids) are widely spread throughout the human body (e.g., nervous system) along with their receptors. The endocannabinoid system is known to play a role in a variety of pathologies such as multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, to name a few. Furthermore, this system is comprised of the Cannabinoid 1 (CB1), Cannabinoid 2 (CB2), anandamide (AEA) and sn-2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AD) receptors. CB1 receptors are the most widely distributed of the group and have dense clusters within the body’s central and peripheral nervous system (i.e., hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, cortex, basal ganglia, spinal cord.) This distribution accounts for the effects of cannabis on memory, cognition, and movement. Furthermore, CB2 receptors are constituents of the immune system and are highly expressed within it. Generally speaking, when someone smokes marijuana, Δ9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; a derivative of cannabidol) and other active ingredients travel quickly to the brain. THC then binds with the heavily expressed receptors in the reward system region and other areas creating behavioural and psychological effects. Typically, blood levels peak within 15 minutes and last ~30-60 minutes. Minor or secondary effects of this drug can last for up to 30 days as its metabolites can reside within adipose tissue of the body for a month.