Is cannabis addictive?

The problematic relationship with substances is a contemporary theme, which must also be analyzed from a historical and psychological perspective. What is the real problem behind the additions? Come find out with us!

What makes someone a “drug addict”? For the Canadian doctor and author Gabor Maté, there is a crucial factor for this, which does not receive due attention when it comes to the subject. According to him, if we want to understand addiction, we cannot ask ourselves what is wrong with it, but what is right – what does the person gain from the addiction? And what they get is pain relief. They gain a sense of peace, control, a very temporary feeling of calm. And why are these feelings lacking in the lives of these individuals? What happened?

The biggest question on the subject is not why addiction, but why pain.

Today, we are going to talk about this complex contemporary phenomenon that is addiction. We even need to start by deconstructing the term “chemical addict”, which only links addiction to substances. It is also necessary to understand that, although many people think so, addiction is not a choice. Addiction is not necessarily genetic, and is not restricted to substances only.

We are not here to say that the addiction to cannabis does not exist, but that we must analyze this issue in a deeper way to understand not only the statement, but its motivations.

Shall we better understand this subject? Come with us!

The X factor

For Maté, we see dependency as an isolated problem, and not as the symptom of something much bigger. The root of this behavior usually comes from traumas, which, if not treated correctly, bring pain and psychological discomfort so great that the individual finds, in substances or actions, a momentary relief. The emptiness of sadness demands a filling.

According to him, addiction can be in any behavior that brings temporary pleasure, and that the individual starts to desire with enormous intensity. The person, then, also begins to suffer from the subsequent results, but does not stop (for not wanting or achieving) despite the bad consequences. This can include drugs, alcohol, substances of all kinds – but not just them.

People can also become addicted to sex and pornography, gambling and betting, shopping, work, political power, online games … Virtually all activities can be addictive, depending on our relationship with them.

Any addiction, therefore, is based on this dynamic: pain, desire, relief and negative consequences. It is an unhealthy way of dealing with something deeper.

According to the doctor, he himself battled two major addictions: work and shopping. He began to neglect his own needs, those of his family and his own patients because of situations related to addiction.

“My own patients didn’t laugh when I told them about it.

They shook their heads and said ‘yes, doctor, we understand, you are like all of us’.

The point is that that’s how we all are. ”

It is from this perspective that we can understand a little better why cannabis can be addictive. But the most important thing is to act on the pain that this behavior brings – and not just on the behavior itself.

A historical view of addiction

Professor Doutor Henrique Carneiro, one of the Brazilian historians who brings a very complete rescue on issues related to drugs in Brazil, also talks about the construction of addiction in our society. After all, did you know that, before the 19th century, there was no talk of addictions and dependencies?

The first time that addiction was considered a disease was in 1804, when Thomas Trotter published the Essay Medical Philosophical and Chemical on Drunkenness, which is considered a milestone in the discovery (or creation) of addiction. For Trotter, the habit of drunkenness would be “a disease of the mind”. In addition, throughout the 19th century, the medical community began to dedicate itself even more to the nature of the effects and uses of drugs, as well as the isolation of pure substances, such as morphine, codeine, atropine, caffeine, heroin and mescaline. Thus, controlled experimental activity became even easier.

This period was also marked by an increase in State intervention in these matters, from the medicalization of populations to epidemiological agreements and impositions with the clear objective of reaching social and racial eugenics. There were attempts to avoid the racial deterioration allegedly caused by the hereditary degenerates, among which the addicts and drunks were prominent.

Cannabis buds

At the same time that there was an effort to curb certain types of drugs, the widespread popularization of others brought an enormous paradox. For Carneiro, “social technologies” became theories of advertising and, as far as drugs are concerned, they served both to encourage sobriety and to condition compulsive consumption.

From then on, not only the demonization of substances was created, with increasingly prohibitionist laws, but also the exploitation of them by capitalism as consumer goods.

Even today, we can see the fruits of monetizing the idea of addiction – with drugs that promise to be miraculous in the treatment of addictions such as smoking, even clinics and institutions with very questionable methods. All of this makes us think that society, at the same time, profits from what it says to fight, and fails to find a dignified way of dealing with people who need real support.

How Harm Reduction Can Help

Harm Reduction is born precisely to bring a more humanized look to individuals who suffer from problematic substance use. The set of harm reduction strategies depart from the assumption that the use of substances will always exist, but that individuals must have a full sense of how they can affect their life – avoiding, through knowledge, a possible addiction.

Unlike the possible forms of care within the prohibitionist policy – which is based on repressive and punitive measures in relation to users of illicit drugs, as well as treatments based on abstinence – Harm Reduction is characterized by pragmatism and a proposal methodological approach to health care. This aims to reduce risks and damage in relation to the complex phenomenon of drug use, whether illicit or not.

Harm Reduction  works from a set of practices related to the care and well-being of users, which do not necessarily have abstinence as their objective. It is known that people can have different ways of relating to drugs. Their use is certainly not problematic. The idealistic nature of the prohibitionist model believes in the ideal of a drug-free society, demonstrating an extremely utopian, unattainable and even undesirable idea.

In addition to the distribution of materials for safe use, information and user education based on a view based on the autonomy of each one, Harm Reduction also studies substitution therapies – in which cannabis is widely used.

Did you know that, worldwide, the herb is already researched and brings numbers of success in preventing overdoses? It is used as an outlet for substances such as alcohol, opioids and even crack. That’s because its risks are lower, and it also ends up reducing the symptoms of withdrawal and craving.

In addition to substitution therapies, psychological monitoring is also necessary, mainly to understand the origin of the behavior and how to act directly on it. If it is trauma, for example, you need to think of ways to deal with the situation in non-destructive ways. The truth is that the situation of addiction is difficult, but it can be dealt with – especially when there is greater attention to the individual, rather than to the substance to which he is involved.

Regarding the use of cannabis itself

cannabis vicia.jpg
Smoking a Joint near the waterfall

When someone continually uses cannabis or concentrates with high levels of cannabinoids, it is necessary to be aware: if this use is interrupted, it is possible to observe some symptoms. Cannabis use can lead to the development of problematic use, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Recent data suggest that 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of disorder, and that people who start using cannabis before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop it than adults.

Cannabis use disorders are often associated with addiction – in which a person experiences withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. People who use the herb often report that when they stop using it, they feel:

  • Irritability
  • Bad mood
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Wishes
  • Restlessness and/or various forms of physical discomfort.

These symptoms peak in the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks. Addiction happens when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug, reducing production and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

An abusive situation can arise in relation to any type of habit – and even in relationships, whether loving, family or friendship. We are susceptible to this, especially when we do not treat correctly what brings us pain.

If you are feeling that your relationship with cannabis is not being healthy, you need to seek help. Seek therapeutic assistance – either from psychologists, psychiatrists or from psychosocial assistance centers. Talking about it, understanding the causes behind the use, how it makes sense or not to you and how it is being harmful are important ways to treat the behavior.

Don’t forget that the difference between medicine and poison can often be the dose. Seeking help, whether from professionals or people you trust, is essential to finding a healthy middle ground in use.

Did you like to learn more about this very important topic? We believe that, behind an addition, there is something much bigger than what we were made to believe, early on, in the prohibitionist model. We hope you enjoyed it!

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