Cannabis or marijuana is a psychoactive drug that comes from the dried leaves, flowers and stems of  the cannabis Sativa plant. This is an annual herbaceous plant native to eastern Asia and popularized throughout the world due to its properties both as a recreational drug and for medicinal purposes. Hemp, a term that is used to refer to the varieties from the Cannabaceae family, can also be used for manufacturing fibre and oils. 

Cannabis is smoked in a pipe, as a cigarette and in some cases combined with tobacco. Some users may cook it in certain foods. 

In Europe, there are several countries that have decriminalized the possession of cannabis, meaning that individuals can, in most cases, carry small amounts of cannabis for personal use without risking legal trouble. In the United Kingdom, cannabis is a Class B drug and it is legal only for medical purposes. Individuals may be fined for simple possession instead of being prosecuted. 

What type of drug is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant that contains a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It affects the central nervous system and includes sensations of relaxation, euphoria, an altered perception of space and time and increased appetite. 

When cannabis is smoked, the THC from the leaves and other plant parts passes into the lungs and then in the bloodstream, from where they are rapidly transported to the brain. The effects are experienced shortly thereafter into a  type of “high”. While many people experience a pleasant euphoria and relaxation, others may report increased laughter and an altered or heightened sensory perception of their surrounding environment. Some may even experience paranoia, anxiety or panic. When cannabis is administered within food or beverages the effects are delayed as the chemical first passes through the digestive system. 

For medical treatment, cannabis is used to improve symptoms in patients suffering from all forms of cancer (for example reducing the adverse effects of chemotherapy) and in patients suffering from HIV/AIDS (to improve their appetite). While its medical use may be separate from its recreational purposes, users are exposed to the risk of developing cannabis addiction and its related short and long-term effects. 

Side-Effects of Abusing Cannabis

Increased appetite is a common side-effect of this drug. Others may include mild hallucinations, fatigue and lethargy, poor coordination, bloodshot eyes. Many emergencies occur when individuals injure themselves or others during the high sensation experienced after administering the drug. These are related to the psychological side-effects of cannabis, such as delayed responsiveness and poor judgment, especially dangerous when driving vehicles or operating machinery. Other mental symptoms can include mood swings, irritability, paranoia and difficulty focusing. 

Signs of Cannabis Addiction

The effects of marijuana use vary from one user to another. However, cannabis addiction may present both physical and mental signs. 

Physical signs include:

  • bloodshot eyes (which are a common manner in an individual who has been using cannabis)
  • Increased appetite 
  • excessive sleeping
  • impaired balance 
  • unkept physical appearance look

Changes in behaviour such as: 

  • losing interest in family and friends and 
  • finding a new peer group (that, in most cases, consists of individuals with the same addiction). 
  • the intention to quit smoking or consuming cannabis and failing to do so is often a clear indication of addiction. In severe cases, 
  • legal complications may arise when an individual causes a personal injury accident while under the influence of cannabis. 

The effects of cannabis may include reduced anxiety and feelings of happiness. However, cannabis addiction will also have a considerable impact on the individual’s relationships as well as their professional development. 

Health Risks of Abusing Cannabis

Long-term cannabis users are subject to several health risks and many of these are related to the health and functioning of the respiratory system. Like tobacco smokers, marijuana smokers are also at the risk of developing severe cough and lung disease. Heavy cannabis smokers have also been found to frequently report chronic bronchitis. Due to exposure to the immune-suppressing effects of the THC, cannabis users may be at a higher risk of developing pneumonia. 

Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Cannabis withdrawal is not as physically dangerous to the patient as benzos, alcohol or opiates. Nevertheless, psychological effects are to be expected and their severity can be increased by the duration of the addiction. As in the case of other addictive substances, cannabis addiction treatment should be undergone in a medically supervised setting such as the one provided by Castle Health where recovery is monitored by addiction specialists who tailor the treatment plan to the patient’s individual needs. 

Common cannabis withdrawal symptoms include insomnia or fatigue, headaches, weight loss or gain, irritability, anxiety, depression, agitation and restlessness. The duration of the symptoms is different for every patient. For many daily cannabis users, this starts on the first day after the last cannabis intake and peaks between 48 and 72 hours after. The median length of the symptoms is 2 to 3 weeks. 

Cannabis Addiction Treatment at Castle Health

At Castle Health, we offer a specialised residential cannabis addiction treatment programme. Our team have been treating patients with alcohol and drug addiction for over 30 years and we provide some of the highest quality services in the United Kingdom. 

The cannabis detoxification programme is personalised to suit each patient’s individual needs and medical history. We offer a tailored approach to addiction treatment, combining the medically monitored detox phase with personal and group therapy, as well as several other complementary therapies. We also offer continuous care to all patients, equipping them for an addiction-free life once they leave our residential rehab clinic. To this end, we offer a continuing care plan which includes weekly group therapy sessions.

Contact us for more information about the long-term treatment programme for cannabis addiction we offer at Castle Health.