Is Mental Dependence of Marijuana the same as Addiction?

Marijuana, also commonly known as ‘pot’ or ‘weed’, is a member of the Cannabis family, Cannabis sativa, to be exact, whose dried flowers are ground, rolled into joints and smoked. Sometimes, marijuana is baked into brownies and cakes for consumption, or vaporized and smoked through ‘bongs’. It could also be brewed into tea that you drink. Either way, upon consumption, people describe a feeling of being ‘high’ and some kind of euphoria.

How does marijuana affect the human body?

The active chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannbinol, simply referred to as THC. THC is a psychoactive chemical and is what alters the functioning of the brain and causes the ‘high’.

In the brain, there are neurotransmitters called endogenous cannabinoids that affect parts of the brain influence movement, pleasure, thinking, concentration and perception of time, among others. One of these cannabinoids is anandamide. The structure of anandamide and THC are similar. Once marijuana is smoked, the smoke passes into the lungs then to the bloodstream and the THC chemical is able to attach to molecules called cannabinoid receptors.

Once it attaches itself to the receptors, it is activated and is able to disrupt functioning in the parts of the brain the usual endogenous cannabinoids have influence over. Users describe their ‘high’ as pleasant and there is a feeling of calmness over the body, which are common experiences.

However, the affect marijuana has on the body is varied from one person to another. Some people experience heightened sensory perception such as brighter colors, increased appetite and laughter. The strain, which is the type of cannabis plant, also plays a part in influencing how the effects of marijuana are felt. The most common strains include sativa, indica and hybrid (which is a combination of the two). Cannabis sativa, and the strains that branch from it, make you feel relatively energized, while indica induces a deep feeling of relaxation.

The euphoric feeling is not experienced by everyone. As it was previously mentioned, the effects vary and are not the same for every individual. Some people experience what is called a ‘bad trip’, where they experience fear and distrust, also known as general paranoia, though these effects are felt when you someone has had too much, maybe they were inexperienced or the marijuana was more potent than expected. People who take in larger doses tend to experience mild psychosis, where they are hallucinating or are delusional.

Smoking rolled ‘joints’ or ‘blunts’ means a more significant amount of THC passes into the bloodstream, as opposed to eating and drinking marijuana-infused food and drinks, and this sometimes causes people who have had ‘edibles’ to ingest more than they should.

Just how many people use marijuana?

Marijuana is more popular among young adults and adolescents, especially males for recreational purposes. Research shows that it is the most used psychotropic drug, ranking second after alcohol. Medical emergencies that were suspected to involve marijuana have also steadily increased, though they are not all marijuana intoxication emergencies.

Distinguishing between addiction and dependence

Many people cannot tell the difference between dependence and addiction and although the distinction is almost not significant, it is important to know what makes them different. Dependence is often used to mean a physical implication made by a substance, and is characterized by withdrawals and tolerance on the said substance. It is possible to be dependent, but not addicted. However, in most cases, addiction follows after dependence.

Addiction, on the other hand, is characterized by noticeable changes in behavior caused by a number of biochemical changes in the brain over time. Addiction is like a combination of both physical and mental reliance on a particular substance. The substance in use is the number one priority of the user, and at this point, they are not just a user, they are referred to as an addict. They dismiss all kinds of harm that could come to them from using this particular substance.

Addiction shows a tendency of irrational behavior in using and obtaining a substance, and this is what distinguishes it from physical dependence. However, it can very well be referred to as mental dependence.

What to do if you suspect marijuana addiction

As a rehabilitation center, we are always ready to help people who feel like they cannot manage to quit on their own. We offer treatment by treating the specific mental health through behavioral therapies and medications to reduce marijuana use. Call us now at 772-266-5320, where our counselors are available 24/7.

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