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Is It Recreational Pot Smoking or Marijuana Dependency?

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Today we’re talking all about Cannabis! AKA Marijuana, pot, weed, ganja… The sometimes beautiful but sometimes debilitating substance of choice for many people in the world and especially the United States. As pot becomes decriminalized and legalized in many states, the recreational use of marijuana continues to become more celebrated and indulged in. However, with more casually normalized marijuana consumption comes the rise in potential for marijuana dependency.
Wait, what?

Is Marijuana Addictive? 

Many advocates and fans of marijuana for both recreational and medical uses rave that cannabis is non-addictive. It’s a natural substance directly from the cannabis plant, yes. And a modern history of studies proves that THC (the main psychoactive component in marijuana) is not physically addictive to the brain.
Although these are likely true, the fact is: when it comes to addiction, humans can basically form a dependency on anything– no matter how good or harmful it can be. There are plenty of us who have experienced addiction to food, soda, cigarettes, sex, toxic habits, limiting beliefs, relationships, dysfunctional love, and the list goes on. While none of those things are necessarily “bad” in themselves, a prolonged obsession with repeatedly feeling uplifted from doing such things can grow to form an addiction.
Of course, occasionally smoking marijuana is nothing compared to harsh drug abuse like opioids or alcohol. Whereas heroin is highly addicting in a physical sense, marijuana is mainly addictive in a psychological or emotional way. 

Physical Addiction

A physical addiction forms when a person uses their drug of choice to the point where their body can no longer properly function without it. The more someone uses a substance long-term, the more their body will grow accustomed to operating on that level with the side effects taking place. This is when tolerance builds. 

For example, someone who uses cocaine once may recover and feel zero withdrawal symptoms. They think cocaine use is innocent; “not a big deal”. Then, for several weekends in a row, they indulge in recreational cocaine use. Over time, they notice every weekend they feel intense withdrawal side effects. In order to prevent these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, they start to “cheat”.The person takes small amounts of cocaine every day for one week to stave off the discomfort. Then, before they know it,  signs of drug addiction are in full force.
Forming a tolerance to marijuana is possible. Tolerance is when it takes a larger amount of a substance in order to feel the desired effects because your body becomes used to small initial amounts. Although tolerance isn’t exactly a physical addiction, it can take the form of emotional addiction, especially in the case of marijuana users.

Psychological Addiction

There is a different type of addiction than physical. Psychological addiction is more of an emotional association with a particular substance. According to the National Institue on Drug Abuse : 

Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17 percent in those who start using in their teens.

Here we see the reality of Marijuana Dependency: AKA individuals who can indeed develop a seemingly physical reliance on marijuana in order to feel “normal”. Any time someone feels the need for a substance to go about their day, there’s some type of addiction present, no matter what they might try to brush it off as!

Defining Marijuana Dependency 

Marijuana dependency is when a person relies on consuming weed in some way in order for him or her to feel like they can get through their day.
Without weed, someone with a marijuana dependency may feel: 

  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Headaches 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Angry
  • Sleepless
  • Unmotivated
  • Void of purpose
  • Other uncomfortable emotions, including irritability or exhaustion

Chances are you might know someone who’s a diehard stoner. This person tends to wake n’ bake (smoke as soon as they wake up), smoke weed at some point during the day, smoke when they’re bored, smoke with friends, smoke alone, smoke in order to feel an appetite, and smoke in order to fall asleep. 

This could categorize as a marijuana dependency, sometimes called a Marijuana Use Disorder. Because marijuana is perhaps the most used (and abused) illicit drug in America, it can be confusing to recognize if someone is actually addicted to marijuana. It’s so common now to be surrounded by weed and not pay much attention to it. It’s common to see marijuana use even glamorized and celebrated among young adults.
A dependency is simply when something is dependent on something else for any reason. Dependencies don’t always have to be bad! Humans are dependent on food, water, social interaction, oxygen, and sunlight in order to thrive. Sometimes, a dependency can become toxic, such as a friendship that requires one person to give more than they get back from the other friend. The same concept can apply to substances in how we use them in our lives. 

What to Do About a Marijuana Dependency 

If you or someone you care about has a marijuana dependency, there are treatment options! Don’t feel foolish about asking for help with marijuana addiction. One of the first steps to overcoming any difficult obstacle with a substance use disorder is admitting you need help.
Addiction centers help treat all kinds of addictions. Many mental health patients with substance abuse disorders turn to treatment centers and rehabs because it’s such a common coinciding thing to have a substance abuse disorder and a mental health issue. This is called a co-occurring disorder

Reach Out

There are several steps you can take to overcome marijuana dependency. Firstly, reach out to someone you trust and who holds your best interest in mind. This could be a friend, family member, loved one, or mentor. 

Treatment Options

Then decide if you need some sort of treatment plan. Everyone is different. Since marijuana is not a life-threatening substance, and it could be relatively harmless to detox from, oftentimes an outpatient program will be the extent to your recovery.
If, however, you’re addicted to multiple drugs of abuse, an inpatient recovery program might be a better option for you. Depending on what drugs you need to detox from, withdrawal syndromes can be harsh physically and mentally for any individual. For this reason, it could be in your best interest to get yourself into an inpatient treatment program. There are medical professionals who can help you through a medical detox and pave the path for long-term recovery. 

Support Groups

There are support groups to help you overcome marijuana addiction. These are like any other support group, only it’s specifically focused on marijuana and the experiences that come along with quitting it.

But Isn’t Smoking Pot Supposed to Be Good for You? 

The argument on whether smoking pot is good or bad is not the intention of this article. But to put it simply, like anything in life there are good and bad uses for all kinds of substances, but not all.
Determining whether or not marijuana is good or bad depends on each person who decides to use pot. Some medical patients extremely benefit from marijuana. Moderate amounts of THC can help cancer patients feel relief from pain, nausea, or gnarly side effects from their treatments. Children with seizures have been known to recovery miraculously with the help of CBD (Cannabidiol), the non-psychoactive component in the Cannabis plant.
Some people with chronic pain or illness also find relief from the cannabis plant. Sometimes to the point where they can finally continue on with their daily lives when they once were so debilitated by pain or physical setbacks. In this case, obviously, marijuana use or even dependency can actually be beneficial. 

However, much of the “stoner culture” we see today about who can smoke the biggest blunt or who can “smoke a friend out” isn’t exactly helpful. Sure, it might be funny to watch movies about marijuana such as Pineapple Express, but that doesn’t mean it’s important to make a lifestyle out of excessive pot use. As we can see, dependence on marijuana isn’t always helpful. Sometimes it can be detrimental.
Some potential side effects of chronic marijuana use where no medical assistance is needed can include: 

  • Extreme laziness
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)
  • Altered states of time 
  • Cognitive impairments 
  • In teens, a decrease in normal brain development into their twenties
  • Increase in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms upon cessation 
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Loss of passion or direction in one’s personal and financial life

It’s All About YOU 

Obviously, everyone reacts differently to marijuana and it’s up to you whether or not you decide to consume it. The important thing is to know yourself first. Know what triggers you, know how you feel when the thought of smoking marijuana comes up, and rely on your sense of personal understanding when decision making.
If marijuana has been something you depend on a little too much, then maybe you want to take a step away and focus on your priorities for a while. If weed triggers you to a former life of drug abuse, you already know what to do (stay far away!). But if the once-in-a-while smoke with friends keeps you in a good mood and reminds you to relax every so often, it’s probably not something to obsess over.
Through these tips and insights, it’s up to you to do your research and decide if the consequences of a marijuana dependency are worth it or not. There are many arguments up for debate about this plant, and it’s helpful to be aware of all sides of the issue when forming an opinion or personal choice for yourself.
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