All good things come with some risk. Inebriants and inebriants provide pleasure, escape, and relaxation. But, repeated heavy use can create problems for some users.
Tobacco, alcohol, opioids, and heavy drugs, they all alter brain and body chemistry. They reduce inhibitions and satisfy reward centers, but they also create a dependency that is very difficult to break.
They change behavior so that it needs added dosage and frequency to satisfy the same psycho-physical needs. As that becomes a habit, it is labeled “addiction.”
Science does not find cannabis consumption addictive. No one has died of an overdose. But, for some people who are predisposed to addictive behavior, too much cannabis use can lead to Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) which mimics addiction.
What does science say?
An increasing number of scholarly articles provide data supporting similar conclusions. That is, CUD is more likely to be found among cannabis users with anxiety disorders, other addictive behaviors, and adolescents combining cannabis and alcohol. A few of those studies are listed here:
- In 2004, JAMA Psychiatry included research that found, “Associations between most substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders were overwhelmingly positive and significant, suggesting that treatment for a comorbid mood or anxiety disorder should not be withheld from individuals with substance use disorders.”
- A 2009 study published in the International Review of Psychiatry found, “It is estimated that approximately one in ten people who had ever used cannabis will become dependent with risk increasing markedly with frequency of use.”
- BMC Psychiatry (2013) included a study finding, “those with various anxiety disorders and concurrent anxiety + depression were more likely to use cannabis or had a CUD (dependence and/or abuse/harmful use) compared to those without anxiety disorders.”
So, you can conclude that some cannabis users risk developing CUD.
11 signs your cannabis use needs curtailing:
1. Chronic cotton-mouth: Dry mouth is a typical side-effect of using cannabis. Dry mouth and throat are almost inevitable after using. However, repeated use can produce an extreme and chronic problem that is difficult to satisfy with water or other fluids.
If the problem continues without too much irritation, it can be solved with over-the-counter solutions or prescription drugs. You might change the strain you are currently using. Cotton-mouth does not disable most users, but it may indicate a growing problem with frequent usage.
2. The Shakes: Medical marijuana reduces involuntary muscle contractions, spasms, and tremors. But, some users find cannabis causes the shakes. They may not last long, but the tremors can repeat for hours.
The shakes probably follow from the THC stimulus and/or the dopamine release. But, continuing tremors may indicate overuse or uses of a counter-productive strain. In addition, if during a pause in use, the tremors accompany irritability, insomnia, and nausea, you may have a problem. It’s one sign you may need a tolerance break.
3. Dizziness: Some users are prone to “green-out.” THC affects blood sugar levels. A 2013 research study for the American Diabetes Association concluded, “Our study results suggest that chronic, daily cannabis use may have differential tissue-specific effects on insulin sensitivity, but these effects appear to have minimal impact on glucose or lipid metabolism.”
For some users, this means a drop in blood sugar that can significant effects including light-headedness, weakness, and temporary loss of consciousness. You can treat a light experience with orange juice or sugary munchy. More serious reactions suggest a change in cannabis strain, but you may need emergency medical care if unconsciousness lasts more than a few seconds.
4. Paranoia: If your strain produces extreme anxiety, you should change immediately. Paranoia is unpleasant and unhealthy. Paranoia may be a side-effect for a new user, but if it continues with repeated use, you are at risk of acute cannabis intoxication.
THC triggers the paranoia, so you may switch to strains with lower THC. You should also assess your thinking because, if you are already prone to anxiety and depression, the cannabis may exacerbate your condition. You might also try reducing your dose and frequency.
5. Psychosis: Psychosis is a dangerous experience. At its worst, it produces a general behavioral dysfunction, a loss of connection with reality. It’s not clear if cannabis causes psychosis or if it triggers underlying psychological conditions like schizophrenia.
The dysfunction manifests as severe social anxiety, panic attacks, and delusional behavior. The problem typically disappears with abstinence, but if it lasts, you should seek medical or psychiatric attention.
6. Lost Time: Cannabis use can be measured in time. It takes time to find it, but it, roll it, and smoke (or use) it. You may need help curtailing your cannabis use when that time takes up too much of your day.
If cannabis use becomes the focus on your daily routine, it indicates a dependent behavior. If that time takes you away from your studies, job, or family, you are losing perspective. If there is nothing inherently dangerous in giving cannabis too much time, it signals a need to curtail.
7. Social Costs: When cannabis use takes you away from friends and family, you may be the last to know. You should listen to them if they warn you about use or the problems you are creating for them.
Other signs may appear as loss of friends, poor grades, disciplinary actions at work, and more. If other cannabis users are refusing to use with you, you should consider the implications.
8. High-Risk Behavior: If you choose to use and drive, for example, you are risking a lot. Driving under the influence endangers yourself and others.
Even a single DUI citation should be a signal that you must assess your situation and use. Incidents of DUI have increased in states that have legalized cannabis. Everyone who violates DUI regs should consider issues of responsibility and accountability.
9. Withdrawal Symptoms: All cannabis users should take periodic tolerance breaks. Such breaks realign the brain and body and test the user’s level of tolerance.
But, you may have a problem if a break leads to withdrawal symptoms like anger, depression, insomnia, nervousness, and restlessness. If tolerance breaks lead to agitated cravings and central nervous system reactions, your cannabis use needs curtailing.
10. Increased Use: Users inclined to CUD will take cannabis in increasingly larger amounts with increasing frequency because their tolerance increases.
They repeat and increase their sacrifice of time, family, school, and job to use more. And, conversely, they may want to reduce their intake, but find it hard to do.
11. Spiteful Continuance: Once users defy the obvious, as they continue to use despite physical, psychological, and social problems, they move closer to Cannabis User Disorder.
If they see, recognize, and appreciate the signs that cannabis use needs curtailing, they can find help in online forums, support groups, and CUD recovery programs.
An extra sign your cannabis use needs curtailing
Researchers, medical professionals, psychologists, and cannabis advocates say that cannabis is not addictive in the sense of alcohol or hard drugs. But, they also recommend moderate use because chronic and irresponsible use can lead to physical, psychological, social, and legal problems.