There are so many benefits to using cannabis, whether you suffer from serious disease or not. Cannabis helps combat inflammation, relax the muscles and open up the mind to new avenues of thought — but cannabis, like other psychoactive substances, is subject to abuse.
Contrary to the beliefs of avid cannabis consumers, it is possible to become addicted to marijuana — so how do you enjoy the advantages of cannabis use without succumbing to dangerous addictive behaviors?
About Cannabis Use Disorder
Plenty of avid cannabis users will argue that their drug of choice isn’t addictive because it doesn’t create a physiological dependency like other addictive substances do.
For example, with alcohol addiction, the body changes how it functions to account for the poisonous substance in the blood, and if that substance is suddenly removed, there can be significant and deadly consequences. There isn’t evidence that cannabis can manifest the same or similar physiological effects — but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to develop a dangerous relationship to weed.
“Addiction” is a nebulous concept that psychiatric diagnostic tools have long struggled to define, and as a result, today’s mental health experts tend to shy away from words like “addiction” or “dependency” when describing any kind of substance or behavior. Instead, the correct term is “abuse” or “use disorder,” both of which describe a negative pattern of behaviors resulting from overconsumption of a substance.
There are 11 criteria for cannabis use disorder described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5):
- Use of cannabis for at least a one-year period, with the presence of at least two of the following symptoms accompanied by significant impairment and distress:
- Difficulty controlling cannabis use, characterized by using larger doses and over a longer period than intended
- Repeated failed attempts to reduce or stop cannabis consumption
- Inordinate time spent acquiring, using or recovering from a weed high
- Cravings for and preoccupations of cannabis, such as intrusive thoughts and dreams of the drug
- Continued use of cannabis despite negative consequences, like criminal charges, job loss or abandonment by social support
- Desire to use cannabis overtaking desires to participate in other aspects of life, such as work, school, or hygiene
- Use of cannabis in dangerous circumstances, like while driving
- Use of cannabis despite awareness of physical and physiological problems, such as chronic cough, memory loss and amotivation
- Extremely high cannabis tolerance
- Withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis
Cannabis use disorder isn’t deadly, but it can have substantial undesirable effects on a person’s life, some of which may endure for years after treatment. Fortunately, not every stoner is destined to fall victim to cannabis use disorder.
How to Avoid Cannabis Use Disorder
It isn’t a good idea for anyone with a history of substance abuse to experiment with cannabis, and the same goes for anyone more prone to addictive behaviors, like children or patients with certain mental diseases.
If someone in the above category is considering using cannabis as part of a medical treatment, they should talk candidly with their doctor and consider leaning on a cannabis caregiver to supply and monitor medical cannabis consumption to preempt abuse.
Still, the average adult should be on guard for cannabis use disorder, carefully avoiding slipping into dangerous consumption habits by focusing on sensible use. Some savvy rules you may want to follow with your own use include:
- Cannabis should be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle
- The decision to use cannabis should not be the result of social pressure
- Cannabis users should be aware of the drug’s effects on themselves, to include legal and health risks as well as personal and social consequences
- Cannabis should never be an excuse for irresponsible behavior
- Experienced users should model responsible use for new users
- Cannabis use should primarily occur in social circumstances and rarely in isolation
- Individuals must set reasonable dosage limits and listen to the constructive advice of others regarding frequency of use
- Cannabis consumption should never put others at risk, like while driving or performing safety-related tasks at work
- Cannabis use should never occur near children
You shouldn’t feel guilty about visiting a San Francisco dispensary or your favorite local area dispensary. Cannabis can contribute to a happy and healthy lifestyle with positive social relationships and productive work — but only if you take steps to keep your cannabis use sensible.