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Cannabis Addiction

Cannabis or marijuana also known as weed, skunk, hash, dope, is derived from the cannabis plant. Is the most common recreational drug and usually smoked in spliffs, inhaled in bongs, or eaten (edibles) and more recently vaped. Cannabis has been more widely used for medicinal purposes for neurological disorders and has been legalised in an increasing amount of countries to date.

The addiction

In the UK, there has been an increase in potency of THC in cannabis over recent years which have contributed to more mental health complications.

When someone smokes Cannabis, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain. THC acts on cannabinoid receptors in the brain, producing a series of reactions that ultimately lead to the highs.

About cannabis usage

How does it make you feel?

The effects of cannabis can vary massively. Some people say feeling ‘stoned’ makes them feel chilled out and happy in their own thoughts, while others say it makes them giggly and chatty. But it can also make people feel lethargic, unmotivated and some people become paranoid, confused and anxious.

It comprises of chemicals such as THC – the psychoactive component that can give rise to euphoria, altered mind state, but also can cause short term memory loss, paranoia, hallucinations, psychosis and anxiety whilst other complication if smoked include chronic lung and heart disease.

Whilst the helpful or therapeutic components are the cannabinoids like CBD which can help with anxiety, seizure disorders, nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy and pain management with increasingly wider and more mainstream use in the right quantities and ratios.

Abusing Cannabis can result in problems with memory, learning mood and social behaviour.

It can interfere with family, school, work, and other activities. Research has shown that Cannabis has adverse impact on learning and memory that can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. Thus, a person who smokes Cannabis every day may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level all the time.

Long-term Cannabis misuse can lead to addiction. Cannabis is also commonly referred to as a ‘gateway drug’ that destigmatizes or demystifies the idea of drug use, making cannabis users more susceptible to misuse other illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens or methamphetamines.

Additionally, when long-term cannabis users try to stop, they often suffer with a number of unpleasant symptoms. The desire to stop these withdrawal symptoms leads many people back into ongoing cannabis use:

  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Decreased appetite, which can trigger disordered eating
  • Anxiety
  • Drug craving

Cancer of the lungs is also linked to cannabis use because unfiltered cannabis smoke has more cancer-causing ‘carcinogens’ than cigarettes.

Behavioural changes that may be symptoms of Cannabis Addiction include:

  • Distorted perceptions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Difficulty in thinking and problem solving
  • Ongoing problems with learning and memory

Additionally,several other signs of Cannabis Addiction are frequently visible in users:

  • Red, blurry, bloodshot eyes
  • Constant, mucus-filled cough
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hunger, referred to as munchies
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety, paranoia, or fear
  • Poor memory
  • Poor coordination
  • Slow reaction time

Cannabis withdrawal can be drawn out. Although physical symptoms may be predominant initially, it takes weeks for the body to be clear all traces of cannabis and reaching a new balance of chemicals in the brain and body may mean both physical and particularly mental health symptoms may take longer to improve.

Physical

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea / decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

Mental:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Cravings

We try hard to control the withdrawal symptoms from cannabis during a detox and we are proud of the feedback that our patients give us on the Bonds protocol detox process. We specialise in detox usually over 1-2 weeks using non-addictive medication to make it as comfortable as possible. Published evidence shows that even an early version of the Bonds protocol was very well tolerated in opioid detox, for example, and opioid detox is notoriously unpleasant, often worse than a detox for amphetamines or cocaine.  97% of patients* did not report pain during a Bonds protocol detox from opioids. (ref Beaini AY et al (2000, October). A compressed opiate detoxification regime with naltrexone maintenance: patient tolerance, risk assessment and abstinence rates. Addiction Biology, 1;5(4):451-62 ).

Once the drugs are out of your system, you can then have naltrexone which can reduce cravings for cannabis and a wide range of other substances, thus supporting long term abstinence.

*Outcome measures recorded at a time in previous years when Dr Amal Beaini was previously providing the BONDS protocols from the Detox5 service, not The New Life Centre at Broughton. These BONDS protocols are now part of The New Life Centre at Broughton and Detox5 has closed a few years ago. Abstinence data at 12 months did not include those patients who could not be contacted or lost to follow up.

Programme model

Our programme model is tailored to the individual’s needs. Our detox varies depending on whether the substance is a lone problem or is accompanied by misuse of other substances, the amount the patient is using, and if there any underlying mental health issues. The internal audits of the BONDS treatment protocols of many years have shown that approximately 70% of patients with alcohol or substance misuse also have an underlying mental health disorder. This combination of addiction and a mental health disorder is called Dual Diagnosis.

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