human behavior

Addicted to Mary Jane

Posted in Habits & Manners, Health & Medicine by humanb on October 31, 2009

weedI don’t smoke weed. (That’s illegal.) But I know people who do. Some smoke it every now and again, some daily. I never thought much about it, even after I started med school. After all, these folk are holding down jobs (well, most of them). And it’s just pot. Sure, you can become psychologically addicted; that can happen with anything. But can you really become physically addicted to weed?

Apparently you can.

I’m doing my psychiatry rotation in med school at the moment, and I’ve been sitting in on D&A (drug and alcohol) support groups for patients currently in hospital for drug dependence. The patients are addicted to different substances: alcohol, benzodiazepines, prescription pain killers, methamphetamine, heroin, and cannabis. Yes, there are patients who get checked into mental health hospitals for weed addiction.

Cannabis is a recognized drug of dependence now – not just psychological dependence, but physical. And it has a defined withdrawal syndrome that repeatedly affects about 25-30% of regular users.

Cannabis withdrawal syndrome becomes evident about 24-48 hours after you stop using, and withdrawal symptoms are at their worst at 3-6 days, after which symptoms become less severe. By 3-5 weeks of abstinence, most people no longer experience withdrawal symptoms, although cravings may continue for some time.

Physical symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include:

  • decreased appetite
  • tremulousness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • colicky abdominal pain
  • central (sometimes burning) abdominal pain
  • sweating
  • hot and cold flushes
  • restlessness
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • yawning

Psychological symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include:

  • irritability, especially on awakening in the morning
  • mood swings
  • aggressive outbursts and behavior
  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia
  • strange dreams
  • anxiety
  • tension
  • fear

Cannabis withdrawal is taken so seriously that there’s a hospital protocol for the administration of a benzodiazepine +/- an antipsychotic to control withdrawal symptoms over the course of a month. Cigarette smokers don’t get that.

I struggle with nicotine addiction, and I find pot smokers so self-righteous at times. They’re always turning their noses up at cigarette smokers. We stink up the room. We give ourselves cancer, emphysema, and strokes. We poison the lungs of those around us. We give our kids asthma. We litter the streets. We have no impulse control. We’re pathetic addicts for a lame psychoactive drug.  I don’t refute this, except for the last sentence.

But cannabis stinks as well, is bad for the lungs of smokers and innocent bystanders alike, and can make an addict out of you too. At high levels of use, it can also cause an acute psychosis; precipitate the onset of a long-term psychotic disorder in those genetically susceptible; and increase the risk of developing major depression or an anxiety disorder.

Weed has got its benefits, obviously, or most of Australia wouldn’t be smoking so much. And I support its controlled medicinal use. But let’s no longer suffer the delusion that tobacco is poison, but weed is an innocent plant you can smoke without risk of harm and addiction.

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One Response

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  1. mike rankin said, on November 10, 2009 at 1:13 am

    sounds like coffee. but some call it the gateway drug because it been blamed for taking its users in to the mainstream of the drug culture but the one to watch out for is meth or ice. ice takes you deep down the rabbit hole and you think that you not down too deep untill you hear people talking chineese an you know that your down too deep but by then a lot of ur brain has melted you you are way over your head then…

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