Cannabis, also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass, continues to be the illegal drug most widely used across the UK, with 7.2% of people aged 16-59 (2.4 million) having used it within the year of 2018. This, compared to the 9% of 16-59 year olds (3 million) who had taken any drug in the same year, tells us that 80% of those using any drug were using cannabis.
There has been a long standing argument about whether or not cannabis should be legalised in the UK, especially since the use of medicinal cannabis was legalised in 2018 and more and more countries and states are legalising recreational use of cannabis such as Canada and 16 US states including California. Those in favour of legalisation believe that it would allow police to focus on more harmful drugs and that, with proper regulation and production, the sale of weed laced with harmful substances from dealers could be prevented.
Does Cannabis Have Any Long-Term Negative Effects?
Another significant part of the argument is based on whether or not cannabis is harmful, with many arguing that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and should therefore be made legal. However, despite the common belief that cannabis is harmless in the long term, research conducted over 30 years has found that cannabis does in fact have negative long term effects, especially on those who start using it during their teenage years.
According to the NHS, smoking cannabis increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, with those who used cannabis over 50 times before the age of 18 becoming three times more likely to develop schizophrenia at 45.
The potency and frequency of use of the drug is also thought to be a factor in the risk of developing psychosis after King’s College London conducted a study that revealed those who smoked high-strength cannabis daily were five times more at risk due to the subtle change in their white matter (brain tissue composed of nerve fibres), impairing communication between the two sides of the brain.
This is because of the way cannabis produces the high. THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis and it latches on to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory), the cerebellum (the part that affects coordination) and the basal ganglia (responsible for movement). Frequent high-strength use of THC can overstimulate the endocannabinoid system, interfering with the brain’s functions.
Amir Englund, a cannabis researcher at King’s College London, said:
“Too much activity usually leads to what we call down-regulation of the system. This can be a way in which the endocannabinoid system gets disrupted by heavy, long-term use of stronger cannabis, and is less able to function as it should.”
According to Healthline, for those under the age of 25, the risk of long-term effects is even greater, due to the fact that their brains are still in the process of developing and cannabis can interfere with this process, leading to problems with memory, problem-solving and concentration.
Excessive use of cannabis has also been linked with other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and paranoia, especially for those who are genetically vulnerable i.e. have a family history of poor mental health. For many people, the pleasant feelings of a quick high aren’t worth the long-term risks of psychosis or disabling disorders such as schizophrenia.
Can You Become Addicted to Cannabis?
Although many people believe cannabis is not addictive, users of cannabis can, and do, become dependent on the drug over time. Unfortunately, dependence on cannabis is less obvious than it is with a dependence on cocaine, or heroin for example, due to the way in which symptoms of withdrawal can be much more intense with the latter two.
Common signs of cannabis addiction are:
- Continuing to misuse cannabis despite any negative repercussions
- Trying but failing to stop or reduce cannabis use
- Using cannabis even in unsafe circumstances, such as when driving
- Becoming secretive or lying to hide drug use
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Spending time with new groups of people who frequently use cannabis
- Lack of hygiene and effort made towards physical appearance
- Problems with concentration and focus
- Delayed responsiveness
- Mood swings
- Withdrawal symptoms
When chronic users of cannabis stop using, they can experience shaking, cold sweats, stomach pains and headaches as symptoms of withdrawal. This is because the brain’s reward circuit eventually adapts to the supply of HTC and develops a tolerance to it, meaning the brain then has to readjust when the supply is stopped, causing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
If you recognise these signs in yourself or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly, non-judgemental team today for a free consultation which can be done over phone or by booking an appointment at the centre. Once the correct treatment pathway has been established and agreed, Acquiesce provides a safe and therapeutic environment which is conducive to the recovery from cannabis addiction.
For more information about our cannabis addiction recovery programme, please visit our cannabis recovery page or get in touch today.