Guide to Cannabis Addiction

Recovery Direct provides comprehensive therapeutic care for individuals suffering from substance use disorder and associated mental health conditions that commonly include eating disorders, gambling, sex, depression, trauma and anxiety related issues.

What is Cannabis / Dagga?

Cannabis derives it’s name from a plant known as Cannabis Sativa. The plant contains many chemicals (cannabinoids). The primary compounds include THC (tetrahidrocannabinol) and CBD Cannabidiol, which cause the effects experienced by users. The most common cannabis products that people use for recreation are commonly called either marijuana / dagga (weed) or hashish (hash) and usually contain elevated levels of THC. In Cannabis products, the active ingredients are THC and CBD yet there are a differences between the plants in terms of volume of THC vs CBD which is produced.

The same plant species is divided into two genetic strains according to how much Sativa or Indica each plant contains.

Cannabis Indica plants are shorter, bushy plants with wide leaves. The indica variety typically grows faster and has a higher yield than the sativa variant. The produce from Cannabis Indica plants have higher CBD and lower THC count.

Cannabis Sativa plants are taller and thinner with narrower leaves and are a lighter shade of green than their Indica counterpart. Sativa do take longer to grow and requires more light. The produce from Cannabis Sativa plants have a lower CBD and higher THC count.

Typically high CBD yield plants are used in the “medical marijuana” industry in the treatment of epilepsy, seizures, headaches, multiple sclerosis muscle spasms, poor appetite and weight-loss caused by chronic illness, nerve pain and many other conditions without the psychoactive effects of THC.

High THC plants are commonly used in the recreational use of cannabis. The thrust of this article focuses on high THC plants and compounds used in recreational excess or where the use of either of these compounds become detrimental to the wellbeing of the user.

Marijuana (weed) is made from the dried flowering tops of the cannabis plant. It is typically mixed with the dried leaves and crushed stems of the plant and sold as dried plant matter. Drug dealers often mix it with other, cheaper substances to increase the mass (and their profits).

Hashish (hash) is made from resin (sap) which is extracted from the plant and then compressed into semi-solid blocks, slices or other shapes. Hashish is “stronger” than weed, as the THC is more concentrated, but the difference depends on the purity of the end products.

Specialised strains of dagga have been developed and new ways of refining the substance make modern marijuana far stronger and easier to get addicted to the substance than it was a decade ago.

The immediate effects experienced by users include; feeling uninhibited, spontaneous, happy, relaxed, sociable, intensely aware of colours, sounds and smells. In general, users talk about experiencing a “high”. Cannabis is, in part, popular because there are no serious physical withdrawal symptoms, like those caused by alcohol and other “hard” drugs. However, long-term abuse may impose some withdrawals when users try to stop, such as anxiety, insomnia and other reactions.

Many people experiment with cannabis or dagga at some point in their lives. Some are led to believe that the warnings about cannabis use are hypothetical or contrived. Other people believe that addiction is limited to a select number of people with genetic predispositions. In reality, addiction can target any individual, from any age, career or financial background and an addiction to a substance.

What makes cannabis abuse problematic, are the many myths surrounding it. For instance, there is the idea that it can be used without obvious physical signs of addiction or negative impact on your life. As with any substance; excess use can and will have an impact on both the physical and mental wellbeing of the user.

Much is made of the medicinal virtues of cannabis, however this is often used as an excuse to rationalise use of high THC containing cannabis, without recognizing the potential negative short and long term damage that high THC cannabis may cause the user (particularly on adolescents).

Most people who start using cannabis, are not correctly informed about the potential issues and yet some are more susceptible to addiction due to other life circumstances. Experimentation and peer pressure (particularly in adolescence) can introduce them to a substance that has clinically proven to have adverse effects on a developing human brain. At first, it may seem like the ideal way to escape other issues or to simply relax and have a good time. However dagga addiction can rapidly become a go-to “escape mechanism”, a relief from the challenges of life, without having to resort to alcohol or other street drugs and this is where the crossover from use to problematic use and finally addiction can occur.

All these misconceptions make it seem like a “minor sin” and some start using it in private, away from the party and social scene. In the process, they may become dependent on it and find it hard to break free, because they do not know how to cope with the withdrawals or out of fear that the underlying issues, that fired off the addiction cycle in the first place.

There are well-established treatment procedures and the affected person can be helped to achieve a brighter future that does not require the daily use of dagga.

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Is Cannabis Addictive?

Like with most additions, problematic use is determined by the person’s inability to stop or control the use of a substance. “Marijuana”, “dagga”, “weed” or “cannabis” as it is frequently referred to, is no different. While seemingly “harmless” to the majority of users, there are many distinct circumstances where the problematic use of cannabis is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the individual. While mass media hails the attributes of “legalised” weed and or supposed health benefits, this is by no means a simple harmless plant in the context of addiction.

Treatment for cannabis dependency

There are various, well established, cannabis addiction treatment programs available that can be tailored to fit your situation. These programs enable patients to stop their dependency and to heal the underlying emotional conditions that they are grappling with. It also prepares them for dealing with real life situations after the treatment process had been completed.

Recovery starts with an informal conversation

An interview is always the first step in any addiction treatment center. It is intended for an open and honest evaluation and to offer the best advice for the affected person’s circumstances.

When you come in for an interview, you will meet with an experienced therapist for a meaningful discussion and a professional assessment to help you decide on the way forward.

Please feel free to phone us for advice or to arrange for a confidential appointment with a trained therapist.