Settling the Question: Is weed Addictive?

Is marijuana physically addictive? This is a question that goes into debate all the time. Even moreso, now that is becoming legal all across North America. My friends and I have had this argument also, and while we still can’t agree on who is right, we can all agree that it is an interesting question that deserves more insight.

To begin answering this question, many different things have to be considered first. For starters, I have to admit that the answer to the question really relies on who you ask. I spoke with various people that smoke weed; from heavy smokers (stoners) to occasional smokers, and that is what gave me the idea to address this question. I also got some insight that a doctor just can’t offer.

The heavy smokers (they smoke more than once a day) said that weed is definitely addictive. They have stated the lengths that they will go through to get some, and just how they feel when they don’t get any. They all told me that without weed, they suffer from physical withdrawal symptoms. Isn’t that the very foundation of addiction? Let’s see, without weed, most of the stoners admit that they experience the following symptoms:

  • Headaches (similar to heavy coffee drinkers that don’t get caffeine)
  • Mild depression
  • A general sense of malaise
  • Mood swings/aggressive behaviour
  • Anxiety/jitters

Those symptoms certainly qualify as the result of an addiction, but it doesn’t tell you whether or not if the addiction is physical or if it is in their heads. I decided to check what doctors had to say. Through researching the question on Web MD, as well as by asking various doctors in my area, I have learned that doctors believe that marijuana is a not physically addictive, in that the body doesn`t actually crave the drug; however it is psychologically addictive, in that the mind craves the drug.

The explanation I got was this: since the active chemical in weed that causes the overall sense of well-being and euphoria is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which is a cannabinoid, it works by sending special receptors to the brain that trigger its euphoric effect. This is the natural affect that the leaf that the Cannabis Sativa plant has on the human brain when ingested. It takes as little as 15 seconds to a few minutes to “kick in” and causes many side effects when used, such as: dry mouth, red eyes, increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, as well as increased appetite (the munchies).

Quick Fact: Sometimes the plants or wrappers are dipped in formaldehyde to make it more potent. This is called “embalming fluid”. While it does increase marijuana’s positive effects and can also trigger a heavier negative side effect as well, such as paranoia, anxiety, increased heart rate, and what is generally known as a “bad trip”. It can be highly toxic to the smoker and even deadly for some.

Light smokers and occasional users say that while they don’t crave the weed itself, they do crave the high, which is how it started for the heavy smokers. The light smokers also stated that they experience no side effects when stopping other than thinking about getting high again. This sounds about right, until I consider that cigarettes don’t cause physical cravings for it right away either other than “thoughts”, but we all know how addictive they are.

Finally, when considering the addictive qualities of marijuana, I also had to consider the reasons why someone smokes it (besides getting high). With research I learned that there are two different ways of becoming psychologically addicted to weed that depended on why the smoker wanted the drug or what benefit they thought they were getting from it.

I learned that some people smoke weed to increase their emotional sense of well-being. They become addicted because the euphoric feeling the weed gives them, makes them think that they can’t be happy without it. Whereas a mental addiction to weed makes the smoker feel like the drug can make a good experience “better,” or enhance their overall mood in general (“It’s hard to let things get to me or to take things too seriously when I’m high”). This sounded to me as if smoking acts almost as an antidepressant in that it gets rid of depression or anxiety.

All in all, what I learned was that weed is definitely addictive psychologically. Even if there isn’t a physical aspect of the addiction like the doctors said, the addiction itself can’t be ignored. Whether or not the addiction is in the smoker’s head, they still suffer as all addicts do without the drug in their system and for that reason alone, I agree with the smoker’s I talked to when they asked; “Who says Weed’s not Addictive?”

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