Learn all you need to know about cannabis addiction, rehab, and timelines here, including how to get help.
*This page was medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever in April 2021.
Cannabis addiction is one of the most hotly contested drug addictions out there. It is dangerous because users vehemently deny that it is even possible to become addicted to cannabis, even as they feed that addiction[i].
In this article we will cover everything you need to know about cannabis addiction, including signs, withdrawal symptoms, and how to get help.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis grows as the buds, or flowers, of a plant[ii]. These flowers are picked and dried and are usually smoked to give a mild high. There are more than 100 different chemical compounds which make up the marijuana plant. Of these compounds, two have been widely studied and see regular use.
The first is CBD, a non psycho-active compound which users and herbalists agree gives you all the nutritional benefits of the cannabis plant, but none of the drugs. The second is THC, or tetrahydro cannabidiol, which contains the properties which make us experience a high[iii].
Other names for cannabis
Cannabis is known by dozens of names, having become popular during the 60s as a seemingly ‘harmless’ drug. We now know that this isn’t the case.
Some other names of cannabis include:
To make matters even more complex, cannabis has close links to religious beliefs, making it hard to avoid in some circles.
How do you use cannabis?
Most people smoke cannabis, but it’s also possible to inhale it through a bong or to consume it through edible products, like cakes and brownies that contain hash. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular to vape cannabis[v].
Perhaps more worrisome is the emergence of the synthetic cannabis known as Spice. This drug creates a ‘zombie-like’ effect in users and can prove fatal. Although cannabis addiction is harmful to your physical and mental health, it won’t prove fatal without a determined effort.
If you are suffering from a spice addiction, we would urge you to call us immediately to get the help you need.
Cannabis Abuse or Cannabis Addiction?
There are two kinds of problematic use among cannabis addicts. The first is the abuse of the drug, rather than the addiction to it.
Someone who abuses cannabis is likely to buy lots of it and smoke it all in one night. This is not the same as an addicted person, who keeps coming back for more and more just so they can feel normal. You can read more about the difference between addiction to drugs and drug abuse within our pages.
Cannabis and Addiction – Can you Get Addicted to Smoking Weed?
Many people question whether cannabis is addictive because it doesn’t seem to take hold of people in the same way as other drugs. Research suggests that around 10% of people who consume cannabis on a regular basis will become addicted. If you’ve smoked weed for a long time, and you started in your childhood years, the risk is higher. Around 1 in 6 people who start smoking cannabis in their teenage years will develop a cannabis addiction. Some people dabble with cannabis, and not everyone will get addicted to it.
Cannabis is addictive because your body and your mind can start to crave the euphoric or relaxed feeling achieved by consuming cannabis, and studies also suggest that the body suffers withdrawal symptoms when exposure to THC is ceased suddenly.
As your body becomes accustomed to cannabis, you may find that your tolerance increases, and you need to smoke or inhale more to achieve the same effects. If you crave the feeling cannabis gives you, or you experience physical urges to continue taking drugs even though you know that they are harming your health and wellbeing, this is indicative of an addiction.
Psychological addiction to cannabis
While cannabis may not seem as threatening as drugs like cocaine and heroin, it is crucial to understand that it can become addictive. This is largely due to the presence of THC, which impacts the body and mind in several ways.
One consequence of smoking cannabis is increased dopamine levels. Dopamine is a chemical, which is found in the brain. Dopamine is often associated with feeling happy and content. If your body starts to connect cannabis with dopamine, you’ll start to crave that feeling.
As your tolerance levels rise, you’ll need to consume more cannabis to achieve the same feelings, and your intake will probably increase.
What Causes Cannabis Addiction?
There are several factors which can push someone towards becoming a drug addict. Some of the main reasons people go to rehab for cannabis include the following.
Mental Health Disorders
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you might find that smoking cannabis makes you feel better. You may feel more relaxed and at ease, or you may thrive on that temporary sense of contentment that cannabis gives you. In the short-term, you may feel that cannabis enables you to get through tough days at work or social situations that would otherwise make you feel anxious.
Trauma and Stressful Life Events
If you’ve lost a loved one, you’re experiencing money troubles, you’ve broken up with a partner or lost contact with your family, or you’re facing unemployment, you might turn to cannabis as a coping mechanism. If you’re upset, you’re anxious, or you’re agitated or restless, you might think that cannabis is a remedy that will help you to relax and feel more comfortable.
Some of us are predisposed towards becoming addicts because of the genes we were handed. If you have a close relative who has experienced drug addiction, you may have a higher risk of developing an addiction yourself. Some people have more addictive personalities than others, and this can put them at greater risk of drug addiction.
Environment and Upbringing
If you are constantly placed in situations where others are smoking cannabis or where it is readily available, you are far more likely to start smoking it than someone who isn’t. if your childhood was disrupted, you had negative experiences as a child, or you were exposed to drug addiction through parents who abused drugs, then the risk of addiction is likely to be higher.
Cannabis Use in the UK Facts and Statistics
Cannabis use in the UK is almost out of hand. Statistics[vi] show that a full third of all UK adults have dabbled in cannabis use in their lifetime. Statista records 31 deaths from cannabis addiction in the UK in 2019[vii], although this is slightly misleading. Rather like AIDS, one dies from cannabis addiction related illnesses such as lung cancer or an upper respiratory infection, rather than because of overdose.
The BBC[viii] reports that cannabis is the UK’s most used drug besides alcohol. Worryingly, they also report that the way we use, and view cannabis is changing. With so many convinced it is a safe drug to use, criminal convictions for cannabis possession have fallen by more than half in the last decade.
What are the Symptoms of Cannabis Use?
Cannabis use doesn’t come with a prescription set of symptoms. We can break down the effects of smoking or using cannabis into the physical and the psychological, and we can look at general signs of addiction for clues.
The physical symptoms of cannabis use include:
- Dry mouth
- Red, bloodshot, irritated eyes
- Feeling hungry and eating more
- Sleeping more and feeling tired and listless
- Lack of coordination and balance
- Loss of interest in personal presentation and hygiene[ix]
The psychological symptoms of cannabis use include:
- Secretive behaviour
- Mood swings
- Putting cannabis above relationships
- Risk taking
- Irritability and agitation
- Anxiety and depression
- Slower reaction times
- Inability to focus[x]
Long Term Effect of Cannabis Addiction
Cannabis addiction might seem harmless, but it comes with long term side effects. If you continue to use you can expect to develop the same cough that a smoker gets. This may lead to lung infections and respiratory problems in later life.
You will experience a decrease in fertility, an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, and will be at higher risk of mouth and lung cancers. You will experience mood swings, potentially hallucinate, and it might interfere with any other medication the doctor puts you on.
What are the Signs of a Cannabis Addiction?
Someone suffering from a cannabis addiction may begin to behave differently. Look out for the following signs in yourself or others you suspect of cannabis addiction:
- You smoke frequently, often several times a day, and your consumption has been increasing
- You’ve stopped socialising with friends or engaging in work events
- You’re devoting more and more time to drugs
- You’re taking less of an interest in hobbies
- You’re putting drugs in front of your friends and family
- You’re willing to steal or get into debt to buy drugs
- You’re lying to loved ones to cover your tracks
- You feel like you need to take drugs
- Your tolerance has increased, and you need to take more drugs or consume stronger cannabis
How to tell if someone has been smoking cannabis?
If someone has been smoking cannabis at work or in school, you can look for signs, but you will never know for sure unless they admit it.
Cannabis users have dry, itchy, irritated eyes. They are often bloodshot when they are high. They tend to giggle too much, struggle to focus on a single thing, and will fail to take most things seriously. They will make frequent mistakes due to the cannabis brain fog. They may smell strongly of plant matter.
How do you treat a Cannabis Addiction?
You can beat a cannabis addiction with detox, therapy, rehab, and after care or secondary rehab treatment. It takes time and consistent effort, but you can break free of the grip cannabis has on you to live a normal life.
Detox from Cannabis
Detoxing from cannabis can take anything up to 30 days. It is unlikely that you will need to be in a detox clinic for the entire time. Symptoms will start to appear a few hours after your last smoke and will heighten for the following three days or so. They will eventually peak, and you will have to endure this feeling until it passes.
Rehab and Therapy Help
When you feel able to manage the cannabis withdrawal symptoms, you will be moved on to the rehab portion of your recovery. This can last up to three months, but a minimum of 7 days in rehab treatment and therapy is recommended. Fourteen day or 28 day sessions are also commonly used to treat cannabis addiction.
Therapies used to treat cannabis addiction include motivational interviewing, Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Group Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
Secondary Treatment for Cannabis Addiction
When you are ready to leave rehab and return to your life, you don’t want to do it unaided. Secondary treatment is often offered by residential and private rehab clinics to help you ease back into the transition. It often includes group therapy and phone support.
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms can be intense and may include the following:
- Shaking or trembling
- Aches and pains
- A feeling of nausea
Can I get Treatment for Cannabis Addiction on the NHS?
Cannabis Treatment Timeline
Cannabis treatment timelines depend entirely upon how long you used for, and how much you used a day. Heavy pot smokers will require a longer detox period and more therapy in rehab to recover[xi].
It can take anything from 1-30 days for Cannabis to fully leave your system. You will not be properly detoxed until after this point. It might still be present in the hair for up to three months. Heavy users will have cannabis in their blood and urine for 30 and 25 days respectively after their last use. For light users, it should be gone in a few days.
How Much does rehab for Marijuana Addiction cost?
An average week in a UK rehab starts from a little over £1,000 per week and rises to anything up to £10,000. The prices vary wildly due to the luxury element. You can be seen for cannabis use as an outpatient but inpatient treatment is more likely to be successful. It also carries a greater cost because of the residential nature.
Where can I find a rehab clinic near me?
If you live in England or Wales, Help4Addiction run a specialist rehab clinic selection service that can narrow down your choice in rehabs to the best options for you. In doing so, we give our clients the best possible chances of quitting drugs successfully, without a relapse.
Contact us today for specialist rehab selection support to beat cannabis addiction. We are cheering you on, ready to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you be addicted to cannabis?
Can you be addicted to CBD?
Is it safe to smoke cannabis?
Can cannabis use affect my mental health?
What happens if I get caught with Cannabis?
What are the signs of cannabis addiction?
What is weed?
Can I get lung cancer from smoking cannabis?
What are the symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana?