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Is Marijuana Addictive?

Is marijuana addictive? Study shows withdrawal symptoms can occur

A recent study reveals that, even though many think marijuana is harmless, some users experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

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Can you become addicted to weed? ~ 

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The wave of marijuana legalisation that's swept across the United States in recent years has been fueled in part by the popular belief that pot is essentially harmless.

But a new study shows that some heavy users will experience withdrawal symptoms while coming down from their high.

About 1 in 10 frequent cannabis users reports symptoms like anxiety, hostility, insomnia and depression after the intoxicating effects of weed start to wear off, said senior researcher Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

These folks might be using pot to help treat their anxiety or depression, unaware that they're putting the cart before the horse, Hasin said. "There's a lot of overlap between the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal and the symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders," Hasin said. "People may actually mistakenly feel that cannabis is helping a depression or an anxiety disorder, when what's happening in reality is they're perpetuating a withdrawal syndrome. Using cannabis makes the symptoms go away, but it's not a good solution to it."

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Advocates of marijuana legalization acknowledge that pot can cause withdrawal symptoms, but point out that its addictive potential is far less than other products that have been legally available to consumers for decades.

"The fact that these withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild and short-lived is one of the reasons why cannabis possesses a far lower dependence liability than most other controlled substances, including alcohol and tobacco," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group advocating for reform of marijuana laws.

"For instance, the profound physical withdrawal effects associated with tobacco are so severe that many subjects who strongly desire to quit end up reinitiating their use," Armentano explained.

"In the case of alcohol, the abrupt ceasing of use in heavy users can be so severe that it can lead to death. Simply withdrawing from caffeine can lead to a number of adverse side effects, like rebound headaches," he said.

Is pot harmless?

At this point, 30 states have laws that legalize marijuana in some form. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have made pot legal for recreational use, while the rest allow for use of medical marijuana.

To test the notion that pot is harmless, Hasin and her colleagues analyzed data gathered by a 2012-2013 federal survey on health problems caused by alcohol and other substance use. During the survey, federal researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 36,000 participants across the United States.

The new study focused specifically on responses from more than 1,500 survey participants who reported using pot three or more times a week during the previous year, Hasin said. They were considered frequent or heavy marijuana users.

About 12 percent of heavy pot users reported symptoms that align with those of cannabis withdrawal syndrome, a condition outlined in DSM-5, a diagnostic manual produced by the American Psychiatric Association.

These included nervousness or anxiety (76 percent), hostility (72 percent), sleep difficulty (68 percent) and depressed mood (59 percent), researchers reported.

Physical symptoms were reported less frequently, but heavy users were more likely to experience headaches, shakiness or tremors, and sweating, the study found.

People with a history of mood or personality disorders had a greater risk for experiencing withdrawal symptoms, Hasin said.

Are teens twice as likely to become addicted?

Frequency of use within a week was not significantly associated with withdrawal symptoms, but the number of joints smoked per day did make a difference, researchers found.

Smoking six or more joints per day was associated with cannabis withdrawal syndrome, while smoking five or fewer joints per day was not.

"If people are using cannabis frequently and they're experiencing these symptoms, they should really consider cutting down on their use, at least to see what happens," Hasin said.

"While many people can use cannabis without harm, there are some people who have adverse consequences from using it," she continued. "If they're frequent users and they're experiencing some of these symptoms, they should consider the possibility that cannabis may be causing rather than helping them with those symptoms."

Emily Feinstein, executive vice president for the Center on Addiction, praised the study for shedding new light on the relative safety of marijuana use.

"Misinformation and misunderstanding about marijuana is rampant," Feinstein said. "Marijuana is addictive, and people who are dependent on the drug exhibit the same symptoms as those with other addictions, including cravings and withdrawal." She was not involved with the study.

"When teens and young adults use marijuana, they are nearly twice as likely to become addicted as adults. In the debate about legalizing recreational marijuana, we can't lose sight of that," Feinstein continued. "We need to take the public health risks associated with expanded use of the drug seriously."

The new study was published recently in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.

The term addiction does not only refer to dependence on substances such as heroin or cocaine. A person who cannot stop taking a particular drug or chemical has a substance dependence.

Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioral addiction.

Addiction is a chronic disease that can also result from taking medications. The overuse of prescribed opioid painkillers, for example, causes 115 deaths every day in the United States.

When a person experiences addiction, they cannot control how they use a substance or partake in an activity, and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life.

Every year, addiction to alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription opioids costs the U.S. economy upward of $740 billion in treatment costs, lost work, and the effects of crime.

Most people start using a drug or first engage in an activity voluntarily. However, addiction can take over and reduce self-control.

Addiction vs. misuse

Not everyone that misuses a substance has an addiction.

Drug addiction and drug misuse are different.

Misuse refers to the incorrect, excessive, or non-therapeutic use of body- and mind-altering substances.

However, not everybody that misuses a substance has an addiction. Addiction is the long-term inability to moderate or cease intake.

For example, a person who drinks alcohol heavily on a night out may experience both the euphoric and harmful effects of the substance.

However, this does not qualify as an addiction until the person feels the need to consume this amount of alcohol regularly, alone, or at times of day when the alcohol will likely impair regular activities, such as in the morning.

A person who has not yet developed an addiction may be put off further use by the harmful side effects of substance abuse. For example, vomiting or waking up with a hangover after drinking too much alcohol may deter some people from drinking that amount anytime soon.

Someone with an addiction will continue to misuse the substance in spite of the harmful effects.

via Medical News Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs, we can help. Make the call to Fountain Hills Recovery today. 1.800.715.2004. Most insurances are accepted!