Cannabis: addiction and withdrawal

Cannabis is the most widely used and most easily accessible illicit drug.

Innovative, personalized consultation for treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

    Something went wrong. Please try again later.

    Cannabis refers to the use of plants of the genus “Cannabis” to produce different types of products (marijuana, hashish, etc.) as they contain psychoactive compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

    Cannabis in Canada

    The initial consumption usually takes place during adolescence, with the heaviest consumers being in the 15-30 age groups. Regular use usually leads to cannabis dependence or addiction.

    Younger people (teenagers and young adults) are particularly at risk of becoming “addicted”, becoming real victims of this cannabis addiction.

    What are the causes that lead to cannabis addiction?

    Cannabis is initially consumed under different pretexts:

    • To fight against inhibition, thus facilitating social relationships;
    • To relax and unwind from the stress and anxiety of school and work: cannabis becomes self-medication in situations of pressure and performance;
    • To break the rules, in search of strong sensations;
    • As a fashion phenomenon, to identify with media personalities who do not hide this.

    Cannabis dependence refers to a state where the individual is no longer able to function normally without using this substance and is unable to stop using it despite the harmful consequences. Regular and repeated use of the substance leads to this cannabis addiction.

    Cannabis dependence is aggravated by the phenomenon of increased “tolerance” to the product, involving the need to increase consumption in order to obtain the same effects. This dependence on cannabis leads to the appearance of a withdrawal syndrome when the consumer tries to stop using cannabis.

    What are the usual symptoms of cannabis addiction?

    Several symptoms can indicate a state of dependence on cannabis.

    • The user gradually loses control over his consumption, the quantities, and frequency of use increase; this is the beginning of cannabis addiction;
    • He or she tries unsuccessfully to limit his or her consumption, or even to stop using cannabis;
    • He or she spends a large part of his or her time getting supplies and then consuming cannabis in search of a feeling of relaxation, even euphoria;
    • He or she feels an uncontrollable desire to use cannabis;
    • He or she no longer fulfills certain professional (or school) obligations because of his cannabis use;
    • He or she continues to use cannabis despite the appearance of relational and communication problems in the professional and private sphere caused by the effects of cannabis;
    • He or she reduces or interrupts his or her extra-professional (or extra-school) activities;
    • He/she uses cannabis regularly in situations that are dangerous for him/her or for others: for example, while driving.
    • Dependence is therefore a continued use of cannabis even though the user recognizes the harmful consequences on different aspects of his/her life.

    Cannabis use may cause a mild euphoria with a feeling of calmness; visual perception and alertness are altered. Heart palpitations, cravings, dry mouth, and swollen blood vessels with red eyes may occur. In some cases, a “bad trip” may occur anxiety, trembling, a feeling of suffocation, and nausea.

    Stopping cannabis leads to a withdrawal syndrome that lasts for several days after stopping: mood swings, anxiety, and irritability, anger, agitation and aggressiveness, sleep disorders are common signs of cannabis withdrawal. Decreased appetite and weight loss may also be associated with cannabis withdrawal.

    How to treat cannabis addiction?

    There is no specific treatment for cannabis dependence or even to promote withdrawal from cannabis. Cannabis addiction treatment programs exist: group or individual, inpatient or outpatient. Cannabis withdrawal, in its initial phase, may require the prescription of medication to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

    Any treatment process must help the user to become aware of the consequences of cannabis dependence on his physical and psychological state, as well as on his life in general. The aim of the support is to help the user to discover his internal resources so that he can consider stopping cannabis and then initiate a withdrawal from cannabis. Mobilizing the support of close friends and family is an important element in achieving a sustainable withdrawal from cannabis.

    Therapeutic support helps the user to understand the origin of his use and dependence on cannabis, its meaning, and the place it has taken in his life: use to avoid stressful situations and/or use for pleasure that has led to a dependence on cannabis. It should help him/her to overcome his/her weaknesses, for example in the case of an associated anxiety disorder or personality disorder.

    The symptoms associated with cannabis dependence fade after the use of the product has stopped, but the risk of relapse remains high and requires prolonged support.

    The risks of cannabis use and dependence should not be underestimated: depression, delusions, and the onset of schizophrenia are not rare.

    How can i support one who is suffering from cannabis addiction?

    If someone close to you is addicted to cannabis, you should express your concern and help him or her become aware of the consequences on his or her life. Very often, they are convinced that they can stop using whenever they want. Helping them accept that they have lost control over their use is a first step in the direction of treatment. There are books and documents to raise awareness, and support groups exist, both for patients and for their loved ones.