Can Habitual Marijuana Users Quit Voluntarily?
Cannabis is a THC-containing plant species known for its ability to produce strong mental and physical alterations when smoked or ingested. Substantial numbers of cannabis users develop symptoms of drug addiction, especially when they take the drug daily or start using the drug early in life. In a study published in October 2013 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from two U.S. universities examined the considerations that affect a habitual cannabis user’s ability to voluntarily stop his or her drug intake. These researchers identified three specific factors—withdrawal symptoms, peer pressure and negative mental states—that play prominent roles in the success or failure of self-initiated cannabis cessation attempts.
Cannabis gets its name from a plant species called Cannabis sativa L., which has two subtypes, known as Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. While C. sativa and C. indica have somewhat differing effects on the human body, they both derive their main mental and physical impact from the presence of a chemical compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A number of compounds related to THC also contribute to cannabis’s mind- and body-altering properties. Most people are passingly familiar with a form of cannabis called marijuana, which is made from dried, unconcentrated C. sativa or C. indica leaves, flowers and stems. Less commonly available cannabis products include concentrated substances called hashish and hashish oil.
Cannabis Abuse And Addiction
On a federal level, cannabis products are illegal in the U.S. in any setting. For this reason, any form of marijuana, hashish or hashish oil use can reasonably be construed as drug abuse. However, from a medical perspective, cannabis abuse occurs in people whose non-addicted cannabis intake substantially interferes with the ability to participate in everyday life. Cannabis addiction occurs in people who become chemically dependent on the effects of THC, then go on to develop behavioral patterns strongly centered on obtaining and using cannabis. According to standards set by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, cannabis abusers and cannabis addicts have a single condition called cannabis use disorder.
Roughly nine out of every 100 marijuana users will develop an addiction to the drug, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. This rate nearly doubles among users who begin their intake of the drug during or before their teenage years. In addition, long-term, daily marijuana users have addiction rates that fall between 25 percent and 50 percent. Anyone addicted to marijuana, hashish or hashish oil can develop cannabis withdrawal when they rapidly reduce or discontinue their drug intake.
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
- Recurring cannabis cravings
- Heightened anxiety levels
- Decline in appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Unusually agitated or irritated disposition
Factors That Affect Voluntary Cessation From Marijuana Use
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the University of Houston and Louisiana State University looked at the various factors that can increase or decrease a person’s ability to voluntarily stop smoking or ingesting cannabis. This assessment involved a group of 30 adult cannabis users attempting to halt their drug intake; the vast majority of these individuals (84 percent) had clear symptoms of cannabis use disorder. During each day of the two-week study, all of these participants gave regular reports of their positive and negative mental states, level of cannabis withdrawal symptoms, level of cannabis use among their peer groups and conscious reasons for failing to halt cannabis use or returning to cannabis use after beginning cessation efforts.
Effects Of Quitting Marijuana Smoking
After reviewing the reports submitted by the study participants, the researchers found that people attempting to voluntarily stop using cannabis commonly experience a spike in their level of withdrawal symptoms, as well as a spike in their experience of unusually negative states of mind. The researchers also found that people going through voluntary cessation while associating with cannabis-using peers have substantially more exposure to the drug than people who typically used the drug on their own in the past. In combination, these three factors (prominent withdrawal symptoms, a negative mental outlook and peer-related exposure to cannabis) present strong obstacles to successful self-initiated cessation efforts among cannabis users.
Why Marijuana Smokers Continue Using
When asked why they continued or returned to cannabis use, the participants in the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence listed a desire to avoid negative mental states as their main conscious reason. The authors of the study note that most people attempting to voluntarily stop using cannabis try to support their efforts by modifying their behavioral patterns and staying away from the drug, not by altering their cannabis-related beliefs or thought processes.
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