Canada has just introduced new legislation that completely changes the legal status of marijuana. The legislation goes far beyond the calls we often hear in the UK for decriminalisation, and actually makes it legal to sell marijuana as a product. But what impact is this likely to have on marijuana addiction?
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Ask many users of marijuana, also known, amongst other names, as cannabis, weed, pot, hash, and dope, and they will tell you that marijuana is not addictive, and they can stop using it anytime they like. But anecdotal and medical evidence says otherwise, and although not all users of marijuana become addicted, evidence shows that between ten and twenty per cent do become dependent. Regular users of cannabis also develop tolerance to the drug, needing to use more in order to achieve the same effect.
Those who have become addicted to marijuana experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it These can include cravings for the drug, restlessness and insomnia, mood swings and irritability. While less severe than many other drugs, and alcohol, these can still be unpleasant and make it difficult to stop using marijuana.
What Problems Does Cannabis Addiction Cause?
Like alcohol, use of cannabis affects the ability to drive, with a study in France showing that drivers who have taken cannabis are two times more likely to cause a fatal crash than those who have not. And if the cannabis is smoked – the most common way of using it – then it increases the user’s likelihood of getting lung cancer.
Cannabis has been linked to mental health problems, particularly in people who start using it as teenagers. One Canadian woman actually sought medical help for mental health problems, not even considering that her symptoms could be linked to her daily use of marijuana. She was suffering from feelings of irritability and anxiety, along with emotional instability and chronic fatigue. During the discussion, it was suggested that her almost constant use of marijuana could be the cause of her problems. Initially, she tried to reduce the amount she was using, but finding this too difficult to control, decided to stop altogether. She reports that now, a year on, she is feeling much calmer, more focussed and is sleeping better. Although not every user experiences these symptoms, they are not uncommon.
Why Could Legalising Marijuana Be a Good Thing?
Marijuana is a Class B drug, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison for its possession. Despite this, there have been many calls for it to be decriminalised, or even made legal. Campaigners for the decriminalisation of marijuana cite its relative harmlessness when compared to other Class B drugs as one of the reasons for their argument.
There are valid arguments on both sides of the debate, with one of the most compelling in favour being that legalising marijuana would allow control over its availability and use. However, control of alcohol has done little to prevent individuals becoming addicted to it, and the stigma of alcohol addiction has not been removed, as some proponents suggest would be the case if cannabis were legalised.
The legalisation of marijuana, or any drug, is a complex issue, and while there may be many reasons for legalising, or decriminalising, the drug, if the government were to go down this route then policies would have to be very carefully considered. A concern would be maintaining the safety of our young people, particularly since it is known that use of marijuana in adolescence can have a marked impact on emotional development, and young people are at much greater risk of developing mental health issues because of marijuana use.
I Think I Might Be Addicted to Marijuana – What Can I Do?
The first step is to get some advice. At Addiction Helper, we offer free, non-judgemental advice and our advisers can help you to talk through your problems. Our staff truly understand how you will be feeling, as most of us have been through recovery ourselves.
If you decide that you need some help with recovery, our advisors can explain what treatment options are available to you, whether through the NHS or at a private clinic. With access to hundreds of rehab centres across the UK, we can help you to find the best treatment option for you and your circumstances. For more information, or just to chat, please contact us today.
- (Maclean’s) Justin Trudeau and the dangers of legalizing weed
- (CBC) Will legalized marijuana lead to more addictions?
- (The Week) Should cannabis be legalised? The pros and cons
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