Cannabis treatment at Hope Rehab has been carefully structured to get the best results as the public attitude towards cannabis has changed dramatically in recent years. The British Drug Survey 2014 found that about 88 % of the population believes that marijuana should be legal, and respondents perceived it to be the least dangerous of all mind-altering substances (including alcohol).
It is increasingly common to hear even politicians use words like ‘harmless’ and ‘natural’ when describing cannabis use – in the US, even President Obama felt comfortable enough to admit that he used to smoke it. Despite the growing tolerance in many societies towards cannabis use, it would be a mistake to believe that this drug is safe.
We get many clients here at Hope Rehab who have experienced the dark side of this substance, and it caused them a great deal of suffering and loss.
Cannabis has many different street names including:
It is a psychoactive substance (it changes the way the brain functions) that is hard to classify because it acts as a sedative, stimulant, hallucinogen, and tranquiliser. The drug is obtained from the leaves and flowering parts of the cannabis plant. It is fairly common to mix the drug with other synthetic compounds to increase the effect. Cannabis can be consumed in a number of different ways including:
Smoked as a joint
Eaten (e.g. hash cookies)
Smoked with a bong
Cannabis does have medicinal uses, and there are recreational users who never develop any problems, but there are definite risks associated with this substance. It is easy to become dependent on this drug to such an extent that it makes life unbearable. Regular users can suffer from low energy with frequent episodes of depression – it can also mean being so numb to life that nothing appears meaningful. Exploring the reality of the drug’s impact on your life is very much part of Cannabis treatment, we find there are high levels of denial around this issue.
Many long-term users experience extreme low energy and lose the ability to self-motivate. Also, if they are still young and studying, users can find learning very difficult. In addition, sleeplessness and insomnia are common, particularly when trying to stop as the dependency develops.
Signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction are often red and bloodshot eyes, increased hunger, bad cough, paranoia, slow reaction times and mood swings as well as being withdrawn and distracted.
Smoking marijuana and cannabis can affect your breathing or respiratory system over time and increase the risk of lung damage and getting cancer.
Marijuana or Cannabis concentrations of THC – the drug’s psychoactive compound, has been rising from about 3.75 percent in 1995 to 13 percent in 2014. High levels of THC are associated with paranoia and psychosis in many users.
MRI scans show what is going on neurologically causing psychotic symptoms like altered thinking and perception:
Reward center: Changes in the way we experience pleasure and life
Impaired memory: Euphoric recall despite negative consequences of Cannabis
Self-medicating: Numbing negative thoughts and feelings
Hijacked Brain: The human reward system is designed for survival but hijacked by chemical payoffs provided by Cannabis. The reward circuitry normally bookmarks important things: food, nurturing children, education, work and friendships. However, now it has been corrupted by the drug.
Understanding the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in addiction is helpful for cannabis treatment.
People with addictions are low on dopamine, causing addiction, depression, loss of satisfaction, poor focus and other symptoms. Low dopamine levels cause us to consciously and unconsciously seek out dopamine raising substances or behaviours. All substances stimulate dopamine release or increase its activity and produce the hedonic response “I like that”.
The first step towards getting better is to admit that you have a problem. You are going to have some justification for this behaviour – maybe you believe cannabis makes your more creative or that you need it to be able to deal with stress. It is vital you are able to see how the cons of this drug outweigh the pros because this is how you develop the motivation to change.