Cannabis Use and Abuse

Understanding the Risks and Consequences

Learn about the potential risks of cannabis use and abuse, including addiction, respiratory problems, and mental health issues. Get help from a healthcare professional if needed.

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Understanding the Use & Risks of Cannabis Use and Abuse

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for centuries. However, with the increasing legalization of cannabis in many parts of the world, there has been a rise in its recreational use, leading to concerns about potential health risks and addiction.

In this article, we will explore the effects of cannabis use on the body and mind, the potential for addiction, and the risks associated with heavy or long-term use.

 

How Cannabis Affects the Body and Mind

Cannabis contains over 100 different compounds known as cannabinoids, with the most well-known being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD is thought to have therapeutic benefits.

When cannabis is smoked, vaporized, or ingested, THC enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain, where it binds to cannabinoid receptors. This can cause a range of effects, including altered perceptions, mood changes, and impaired coordination and memory. Other effects can include increased heart rate, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, and increased appetite.

The effects of cannabis can vary depending on factors such as the potency of the drug, the method of consumption, and the user's individual physiology. Some people may experience anxiety or paranoia, while others may feel relaxed and euphoric.

 

Potential for Addiction

While cannabis is not as addictive as drugs such as cocaine or heroin, it can still lead to addiction in some individuals. Research has shown that around 9% of cannabis users will become addicted, with this number rising to 17% for those who start using in adolescence.

Symptoms of cannabis addiction can include cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty cutting back or quitting. Long-term use of cannabis can also lead to tolerance, meaning that users may need to consume more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

 

Risks Associated with Heavy or Long-Term Use

Heavy or long-term cannabis use can also have a range of negative health consequences. Some of the potential risks associated with heavy or long-term use include:

  • Respiratory Problems:

    • Smoking cannabis can lead to lung damage and respiratory issues similar to those caused by tobacco smoking.

  • Mental Health Issues:

    • Cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

  • Impaired Cognitive Function:

    • Heavy cannabis use can lead to impaired memory, attention, and learning ability, particularly in adolescents.

  • Addiction:

    • As discussed earlier, heavy or long-term cannabis use can lead to addiction.

While cannabis can have therapeutic benefits and is increasingly being used for medicinal purposes, it is important to understand the potential risks associated with its recreational use. Heavy or long-term use can lead to addiction and a range of negative health consequences, particularly in vulnerable populations such as adolescents.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cannabis use or addiction, seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider or addiction specialist.

 

Sources:

  • Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. B. (2014). Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370(23), 2219–2227. http://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1402309
  • Blanco C, Hasin DS, Wall MM, Florez-Salamanca, L., Hoertel., N., Wang, S., Kerridge, B. T., & Olfsen, M. (2016). Cannabis use and risk of psychiatric disorders: Prospective evidence from a US national longitudinal study. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(4):388–395. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3229

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