Indigenous to Central and South Asia, we’ve found evidence of the inhalation of burning cannabis that dates back five thousand years, used in what we currently believe were spiritual rituals. Marijuana may have had some type of significance for funerary rituals since much of the evidence that exists has been found among artifacts with known importance during early burial rituals.
There’s also evidence that cannabis was eaten, including in Egyptian mummies dated to over three thousand years ago. The first time cannabis was referred to as a psychoactive agent was in the writings of Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2737 BCE. According to Shen Nung, cannabis has a number of powers and applications, including as a medication for malaria, gout, rheumatism, and even for things like absentmindedness. It would come to be used in a number of ancient Asian medicinal practice, but by the 1900s attitudes toward marijuana had become extremely negative. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to be knowledgeable about marijuana, particular what the drug is, where it comes from, and what makes marijuana dangerous.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is a psychoactive plant containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the primary psychoactive ingredient in the plant and what gives the substance is main effects. However, tetrahydrocannabinol is one of 483 known, identified compounds in the plant with at least 65 of them being other cannabinoids, or the compounds unique to cannabis that are responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects. Although there are still some cultures that use marijuana for medicinal or spiritual purposes, marijuana has been made illegal throughout much of the world. In the United States and a number of other developed countries, there has been growing support for the legalization of marijuana. Some states of gone so far as legalizing medicinal marijuana, which refers to the use of marijuana for modern, medicinal uses. In fact, there are some states — Colorado and Washington, for example — that have actually legalized marijuana for recreational uses, indicating a shift in paradigm when it comes to marijuana.
Historically, it was assumed that marijuana couldn’t be addictive, but there’s emerging evidence to the contrary. When it comes down to it, any substance that a person imbibes that results in a loss of control is addictive in some capacity, whether that means it’s behaviorally addictive, habit-forming, or physically addictive in some way. In the case of marijuana, it’s referred to as marijuana use disorder, or cannabis use disorder. Meanwhile, many studies have shown that marijuana is actually substantially less harmful than most other substances, including alcohol, which is legally available to those of appropriate age. The strongest argument that remains against marijuana is its designation as a “gateway drug”, which is still one of the most compelling reasons for the substance remaining illegal despite the fact that the same could (and has) been said about alcohol.
Why Marijuana is Dangerous
As is often the case with psychoactive substances, marijuana tends to affect people in different ways, varying according to their state of mind, their level of experience with mind-altering substances, and a few other factors. For some individuals, marijuana causes extreme paranoia and fear while others don’t experience much of this effect at all. However, some of the most consistent effects of marijuana are its depressant-like effects, including drowsiness, decrease in fine motor control, sense of strong physical and emotional relaxation, decreased sense of personal identity, poor perceptions of space and time, increased hunger, and so on. Of course, there are a number of potential long-term effects, too, including respiratory problems, impaired ability to complete complex tasks, decline in cognitive abilities, and possible transition to harder and more dangerous substances.
As mentioned above, there’s been intense debate as to whether or not marijuana is actually addictive. According to the evidence that’s available, the most likely scenario is that marijuana is not actually addictive in the same way that heroin, alcohol, and benzodiazepines are addictive; however, the use of marijuana is habit forming. This means that individuals can develop a marijuana use habit, resulting in physiological distress when they’re unable to use marijuana. For the most part, this distress would include mostly psychological rather than physical symptoms, including agitation, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, inability to concentrate, and so on.
Current estimates suggest that approximately half of the American population has used marijuana at least once in their lives, making it the most widely-used illicit drug in the U.S. With so many people using marijuana, there’s a pretty significant likelihood that individuals will develop marijuana use disorder, which involves a number of trademark signs to indicate a marijuana problem. The most essential sign of a marijuana problem is when a person becomes unable to remain in control of his or her marijuana use. Like other substances, the substance abuse escalates over time because the individual wants to experience greater levels of intoxication; however, due to the quick development of a tolerance, they’re unable to achieve the same level of intoxication that they experienced in the beginning. It becomes quite difficult for the individual to concentrate since seeking and using the drug is the individual’s primary concern. After it becomes habitual, the individual reaches the point where it’s difficult to function without the marijuana. Again, the addiction is much less physical than with other drugs, but it still has a great level of effect on overall health and ability to function.
Overcoming Marijuana Addiction at Malvern Institute
While it’s true that marijuana isn’t addictive in the same way that narcotics, opioids, and benzodiazepines are addictive, marijuana is habit-forming, which makes it difficult for those dependent on alcohol to function normally. Fortunately, Malvern Institute has a high-quality, evidence-based program in which individuals can overcome marijuana addiction. The Malvern 90 Model Care guides patients through the entire continuum of treatment, beginning with detoxification and proceeding through induction, inpatient care, and outpatient treatment. Upon completing the program, Malvern continues to be a vital resource when program graduates participate in our alumni and aftercare programs.
If you’d like to learn more about marijuana addiction treatment at Malvern Institute, or if you have any other questions, please call us anytime at 610.MALVERN (610.625.8376).