It is well-known that cannabis—often referred to as marijuana, pot, or weed—is “one of the most commonly used drugs in Canada” (CCDUS, n.d.). In fact, according to the 2018 National Cannabis Survey, almost 16% of Canadians reported using the substance at least once in the past three months (CCDUS, n.d.). Yet despite its popularity and recent legalization, cannabis still presents certain health risks and use can over time develop into an addiction.
Those living with a cannabis addiction face unique challenges and difficulties. They may feel as if their addiction is minimized and not taken seriously, or they may have difficulty overcoming their addiction as cannabis becomes easier to access. If you would like to become an addictions counsellor and help others achieve lasting recovery, continue reading to learn more about cannabis addiction.
The Risks Associated with Cannabis Addiction
Decades ago, the risks associated with marijuana use were occasionally exaggerated. To solve this problem, many worked to reassure the public, stressing that cannabis was safer than several other illegal drugs. However, some experts worry that this has now led the public to underestimate the dangers that cannabis can pose.
Cannabis use has been linked with certain negative outcomes. For example, among those with a family history of mental illness, “Those who smoke regularly double their risk of reporting psychotic symptoms or being diagnosed with schizophrenia in adulthood” (Castaldo, 2018). In addition, long-term and regular cannabis use “is also associated with problems in attention, memory, impulse control, problem solving and emotional regulation.” (Castaldo, 2018). Some studies have also reported that for those working to overcome their cannabis addiction, it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms such as “trouble sleeping, irritability, and anxiety.” (Khazan, 2014) Among those who develop an addiction to cannabis as a teenager, these risks are even more pronounced (Castaldo, 2018).
Rather than exaggerate or underplay the risks of cannabis use, graduates of addictions counselling training know that it is best to approach the topic in a manner that acknowledges dangers of cannabis while not overemphasizing them. This helps to establish trust, and pave the way to an open dialogue during the road to recovery.
Stigma and Other Challenges Faced by those with a Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana addiction can have a profound effect on a person’s life. For many, their addiction may have caused financial troubles, job loss, and strain on close relationships (Lowrey, 2018). In addition to these problems, many living with a cannabis addiction may also face stigma. In fact, they may have difficulty convincing others of the severity of their addiction. This is because there is a “common belief that you can be ‘psychologically’ addicted to pot, but not ‘physically’ or ‘really’ addicted.” (Lowrey, 2018) In addition, many may wrongly believe that marijuana is a harmless substance. According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), “a majority of youth were unaware that cannabis can be addictive and lead to withdrawal symptoms” (Castaldo, 2018).
Graduates of addictions counsellor courses know that these myths are damaging, as well as far from the truth. According to some estimates, approximately 9% of those who use cannabis will develop an addiction to it (Khazan, 2014). In addition, among heavy users, “Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 2 of those who smoke cannabis daily will develop an addiction to it” (Government of Canada, 2019).
Using Your Addictions Counselling Training to Help Clients Overcome Cannabis Addiction
Recovery from addiction is often a long and difficult process. In fact, on average, people try to quit six or more times before finally achieving success (American Addiction Centers, n.d.). One reason for this is that many people who have an addiction also socialize with others who share that same addiction. As a result, recovery often means the loss of a “whole social circle” and the need to establish a new sense of community (O’Connor, 2014).
Fortunately, addictions counsellors can help to address this problem through group therapy sessions. These can be especially valuable, as those working towards recovery can meet others undertaking the same challenges. This helps to dissolve feelings of loneliness and isolation, as participants share their experiences with each other (O’Connor, 2014). In combination with individual therapy as well as other approaches, group therapy can help those with a marijuana addiction achieve lasting recovery.
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American Addiction Centers (n.d.) Marijuana Addiction Treatment. Retrieved from: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/marijuana-rehab
Castaldo, J. (2018) Marijuana addiction is real, and teenage users are most at risk. Macleans. Retrieved from: https://www.macleans.ca/society/health/marijuana-addiction-and-the-teenage-brain/
CCDUS (n.d.) Cannabis Data. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Retrieved from: http://www.ccdus.ca/Eng/topics/Cannabis/Cannabis-Data/Pages/default.aspx
Government of Canada (2019) Cannabis in Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/cannabis/health-effects.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc_en&utm_content=health_2&utm_campaign=cannabis-18
Khazan, O. (2014) Is Marijuana More Addictive Than Alcohol? The Atlantic. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/is-marijuana-more-addictive-than-alcohol/380183/
Lowrey, A. (2018) America’s Invisible Pot Addicts. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/08/americas-invisible-pot-addicts/567886/
O’Connor, L. (2014) How to Get Off Marijuana. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-empathic-nature/201401/how-get-marijuana