Cannabinoids, the chemicals in marijuana, have the potential to cause dependence in users. Developing a dependence makes it much more difficult to stop using.
Symptoms of Cannabinoid Dependence
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As seemingly harmless as cannabinoids may seem, marijuana – the most commonly used cannabinoid – remains a primary gateway drug for drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin. Ongoing debates surrounding marijuana’s “legitimacy” doesn’t take away from the fact that long-term use places users at considerable risk of dependence and eventual addiction to the drug.
Not unlike other addictive drugs, cannabinoid dependence happens in the brain. With continued use, users become susceptible to a cannabinoid-specific withdrawal syndrome. At this point, symptoms of cannabinoid dependence start to surface.
Within both the United States and Europe, marijuana remains the most widely used illegal drug on the market, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine. An estimated nine percent of people who try marijuana become dependent compared to 15 percent of those who use cocaine and 24 percent of people who use heroin.
While a dependence on marijuana cannabinoids typically takes longer than cocaine or heroin dependence, cannabinoid dependency rates double those of other illegal drugs simply because so many more people have tried it.
Once dependent, a person may start to see problems developing within different areas of his or life. Areas most affected may include:
- Psychological functioning
- Relationships problems
- Family problems
- Financial difficulties
- Health problems
Perhaps the most telltale sign of cannabinoid dependence occurs when a person tries to cut back or stop using, and fails. On average, people who seek out treatment help have used marijuana for over 10 years and had over six failed attempts at stopping the drug.
Cannabinoid Withdrawal Syndrome
While many people may question whether it’s even possible to become dependent on marijuana, a cannabinoid withdrawal syndrome has been scientifically proven to exist. Not unlike the withdrawal syndromes associated with heroin and cocaine, once a person becomes dependent on cannabinoids, stopping or reducing use causes a type of “short circuit” in the brain.
In the absence of the drug, brain chemical processes must scramble to re-establish a chemical equilibrium. This process precedes according to a fairly reliable timetable much like any other withdrawal syndrome:
- Withdrawal symptoms start within 24 to 48 hours after the last dose
- Symptom severity peaks within four to six days
- Total duration of withdrawal symptoms last anywhere from one to three weeks
Most notably, the experience of withdrawal symptoms makes it hard for people to stop using. In effect, these symptoms work to motivate ongoing use of the drug.
Symptoms of Cannabinoid Dependence
Symptoms of cannabinoid dependence first appear within a person’s physical make-up. With continued use, users start to develop psychological and behavioral symptoms once the drug becomes a focal point in their lives.
Physical symptoms of cannabinoid dependence include:
- Coordination problems
- Short-term memory problems
- Inability to think clearly
- Poor decision-making abilities
- Bloodshot eyes
- Unusually fast heartbeat
- Slowed reaction times
Psychological symptoms of cannabinoid dependence may take the form of:
- Anxiety episodes
Behavioral symptoms of cannabinoid dependence include:
- Missed days at work
- Unusual sleep patterns
- Neglecting close relationships
- Hanging out with a different group of friends
- Money problems
Symptoms of cannabinoid dependence only grow progressively worse the longer a person uses. It also becomes increasingly harder to stop using without getting needed treatment help.