While population surveys for Spain and the United Kingdom report decreasing or stable cannabis use over the last decade, in other countries such as the US, cannabis use disorder and in its most severe form - cannabis addiction - are on the rise (1).
What are the effects of cannabis?
The immediate effects of smoking cannabis include a “high”, a general feeling of happiness, relaxation, and a lack of inhibition, which is why many people take it to relax and “chill out”. Taking cannabis can result in an increase in appetite, and heighten the senses (taste, sight, smell or hearing). A person’s pupils become dilated and eyes bloodshot.
However, smoking cannabis can also have negative short-term effects such as:
- Anxiety, panic, paranoid thoughts and self-consciousness
- Poor coordination, balance and reduced reaction time
- Increased heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting.
Serious long-term cannabis effects include:
- Developing an addiction to cannabis
- Brain abnormalities and diminished mental functioning
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations, paranoia and even psychosis.
What are the main signs of cannabis addiction?
The signs of cannabis addiction range from changes in mood and behaviour, to physical symptoms and social withdrawal. Typical signs are:
- You want to stop taking cannabis but cannot.
- You take cannabis in larger quantities or more often than intended.
- You spend a lot of time getting, taking or recovering from taking cannabis.
- You have cravings and urges for cannabis.
- You cannot manage at work, home or with studies because of your cannabis use.
- You take cannabis again and again, even when it puts you or others in danger.
- You have physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. Find out more about cannabis withdrawal symptoms.
What are the consequences of cannabis addiction?
Common consequences include relationship and family problems. Someone addicted to cannabis may feel guilty about their use of the drug, that could be causing financial difficulties. They often experience low energy and self-esteem and are dissatisfied with their productivity levels. Cannabis dependence can also lead to sleep and memory problems, and a general lack of satisfaction with life (2). Most cannabis addicts do not think they can stop and experience withdrawal symptoms if they try.
Over three-quartersof all reported drug law offences in the European Union are related to cannabis, and this figure has been increasing since 2006.
Is smoking cannabis dangerous?
- Smoking cannabis is particularly dangerous for adolescents because the brain is not yet fully developed. Using cannabis during adolescence leads to a higher risk of developing mental illnesses in adulthood, such as anxiety, psychosis, severe depression or schizophrenia.
- The cannabis sold today is also becoming more potent, with higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient. According to recent research, smoking marijuana with high doses of THC may involve a higher risk of negative health effects like panic attacks and psychosis. (3)
- Cannabis use roughly doubles the risk of fatal and non-fatal car accidents, a risk which is even greater when alcohol is also consumed. (4)
- Regularly smoking cannabis during pregnancy can lead to reduced baby size. Prenatal exposure to cannabis may lead to impaired academic performance. (4)
Do I have a problem with cannabis?
Concerned about your cannabis use? Take our cannabis assessment test to find out more about the signs of cannabis addiction and whether you need to stop smoking cannabis.
(1) European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction: 1. State of the drugs problem in Europe, Annual report 2015. 2. Perspectives on drugs. Characteristics of frequent and high-risk cannabis users.
(2) Gruber et al., 2003; Stephens et al., 2002.
(3) Changes in Cannabis Potency Over the Last 2 Decades (1995–2014): Analysis of Current Data in the United States. Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Zlatko Mehmedic, Susan Foster, Chandrani Gon, Suman Chandra, James C. Church.
(4) Is smoking marijuana dangerous? A review of research over the last 20 years says it is, The Independent, 7 October 2014