Medical marijuana is becoming more commonly prescribed for a variety of illnesses, such as pain, epilepsy, cancer, and depression. Pain killers and pharmaceuticals can often have severe side effects and can be relentlessly addictive. If you have been prescribed medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms caused by an illness, you might be wondering just how addictive it is. And you are not alone. This question has been debated for several decades with firm believers on either side of the argument. Because cannabis is such a hotly debated political subject, a lot of research has been performed to analyze its addictive properties, though the argument persists.
How Marijuana Affects Your Brain
The THC in marijuana acts on the brain’s reward system that responds to pleasurable things, such as sex, chocolate, and other drugs. It stimulates your brain cells just like other drugs do to cause euphoric feelings. It makes sense, then, that many people believe cannabis use can cause addiction just like other, more powerful drugs, since it activates the brain in the same way.
Addiction often leads to damaging problems in a user’s life, such as troubles at school or work, deteriorating relationships, and even legal issues. Some drugs, like heroin and alcohol, can cause severe physical addiction symptoms, such as withdrawals, shaking, and vomiting. When someone thinks of addiction, this is the typical picture they come up with-someone affected with an addiction to opioids or alcohol.
However, marijuana causes more of a psychological addiction than a physical addiction, and can include symptoms like anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Because the brain is a powerful tool, psychological symptoms and cravings can often be even stronger than physical addiction and withdrawals.
These symptoms are more difficult to identify, and more difficult to associate with actual addiction rather than other psychological factors at play, which is why the debate persists. Many believe these psychological problems to be from an addiction to marijuana, while others do not believe the connection has been firmly enough established to prove that marijuana addiction is real. It’s easier to deny a psychological addiction, like cannabis, than it is to deny a physical addiction.
Generally, most cannabis users display no symptoms of addiction, such as withdrawals, cravings or increased tolerance. They can take it or leave it with no problem. Other users, however, have continued craving and keep using cannabis regardless of losing their jobs, ruining relationships with family or friends, or draining their bank account to get high, all the while justifying their cannabis use. These behaviors are typical of addiction and should be treated as such.
Medical marijuana users who display symptoms of psychological addiction typically smoke cannabis as a crutch, use it every day, and don’t care how it affects their lives. If you are using medical marijuana as prescribed by your doctor, without abusing it, the chances of addiction are much lower. With proper moderation of its use, medical marijuana can be beneficial to many patients facing a wide variety of medical illnesses, without any worry of addiction.
Because of its subtle addictive symptoms, the question of whether or not medical marijuana is addictive has been debated for years, and will likely continue to be debated for the foreseeable future. If you have been prescribed medical marijuana, you will have to decide if the chance of becoming psychologically addicted, even with moderate use, is worth the risk of using it to decrease or eliminate your symptoms. You must decide if it is right for you.