Updated: Apr 25, 2019
When talking about dependency and addiction, we first need to clarify some specifics. Even though they are often used similarly, there is a significant difference between the concepts of dependence and addiction: dependence is basically a physical phenomenon, in which a person’s organism creates a tolerance to a drug or medication, to such an extent, that it goes into withdrawal if there is a sudden interruption in use. These withdrawal symptoms may range from mild to severe and it is the reason why doctors gradually wean patients off from meds, such as those used to treat anxiety or pain. Addiction, on the other hand, is characterized by a loss of control in relation to the drug.
According to a recent article on Wired Magazine, cannabis can be used to treat all sorts of disagreeable symptoms caused by a range of health problems; these symptoms may include pain, nausea, anxiety, and headaches, among others. While the benefits of cannabis are many, there is no denying that its frequent use can create a dependency in the patient. Some experts state that up to 10 percent of cannabis users may develop a dependency, which include irritability, mood swings, and decreased appetite for up to two weeks after quitting its use.
Compared to hard drugs such as opioids and heroine---the latter hooks over 25 percent of its users, the percentage for cannabis is not so bad. Moreover, withdrawal symptoms for cannabis are much less severe—there are no seizures, hallucinations, cramps, diarrhea, etc. as with heroine.
Finally, contrary to other drugs, a cannabis overdose does not kill. And it is important to remember here the difference between a dependency and addiction; because frequent cannabis use can lead to addiction, as anything else that is over-consumed. Moreover, cannabis has the potential to cause harm to some vulnerable populations, such as the immature brains of children and adolescents. It is well known that the human brain continues to develop into the early 20s and research indicates that frequent and uncontrolled use of cannabis among minors can lead to changes in the brain. Moreover, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who begin using cannabis before the age of 18, are four times more likely to develop a dependency than adults. All of these are the reasons why the consumption and dosages for medical use among minors is rigorously limited and controlled.
What is important then –as with everything—is dosing control and, also, a careful assessment and overview of the cannabis strains used. Some strains have almost no trace of THC—the high-inducing compound—while being rich in CBD, the compound associated with regulating seizures and other very beneficial effects. Proper control also leads to early professional intervention, decreasing the risk that the use of cannabis could become an addiction.
Overall, however, we need more research on the best ways to use cannabis, the effect on the human organism of different cannabis strains and dosages, and much more. However, because it remains proscribed at the federal level, scientists have been hampered from gathering more data and improving what we know about the issue today. Being able to expand our understanding of cannabis can lead to more—and better—therapies and to increase its potential to treat a wide range of health problems.
Data gleaned from: “Scientists Journey into the Dark Side of Cannabis”. In Wired, 12/18/2018.