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This page was medically reviewed by Stephanie Chick (FDAP), Senior ATP (Addiction Treatment Programme) Therapist at Priory Hospital North London, in July 2020.

Is Cannabis Addictive?

Cannabis is one of the most widely misused substances in the UK, and yet many myths still persist about the dangers of this substance. Also commonly referred to as 'marijuana' or 'weed', this drug is derived from the cannabis plant, and yes, it is addictive. Over time, your brain adapts to the chemicals within the drug to the point where greater amounts of the drug are required in order to achieve the same high.

If you regularly use cannabis and experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings for the drug when you are not using it, this could be a sign that you have developed a cannabis addiction.

While the short-term effects of relaxation and stress relief may seem purely recreational at the time, it’s believed that as many as 30% of people using cannabis have cannabis use disorder and struggle with cannabis addiction symptoms. This refers to various degrees of problem use with the drug, while 10% of users develop a dependency to cannabis, which can ultimately lead to addiction.

What Causes Cannabis Addiction?

The calming, relaxed state that cannabis produces can be enticing if you struggle with certain untreated mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, or if you struggle in social or professional situations. If you find yourself requiring cannabis to function or to avoid discomfort, it is likely that you have developed an unhealthy dependence on the drug that will require professional help to overcome.

While the chances of developing an addiction varies from person-to-person and some people can use the drug without developing dependence, certain factors such as the amount of THC consumed when taking cannabis can determine the intensity of the high. Different strains of cannabis contain higher amounts of THC in others, with particularly strong types of cannabis believed to contribute towards a greater likelihood of you developing an addiction. Different strains of cannabis can also stay in the body for longer, so the symptoms experienced may vary.     

Some people argue that cannabis is a safe and harmless drug, although misusing cannabis and developing an addiction occurs in 10% of people who are exposed to the drug. If you begin using cannabis in your teens, the chance of becoming addicted rises to 16%, with the long-term damage to your mental health increasing as greater amounts of the drug are used in order to achieve the same effects.

 Other factors which may play a role in whether you develop an addiction to cannabis include:

  • Genetic - if you have an immediate relative who has struggled with addiction at some point in their life, then it may indicate that you are predisposed to having an addictive personality and an increased chance of cannabis addiction
  • Environmental - a disruptive home life as a child is believed to increase the chances of developing an addiction as you grow older, possibly due to a desire to take back a level of control that wasn’t possible when you were young. The earlier you start taking drugs, such as part of a social group at school or college, the more likely it is that you will develop an addiction
  • Psychological - if you are already struggling with an existing mental illness, self-medicating through the use of alcohol or drugs such as cannabis may be used to reduce unwanted symptoms. This method is likely to worsen symptoms of the illness and can lead to co-existing mental health problems with the inclusion of addiction
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How is Cannabis Addiction Treated?

When you choose Priory for treating a cannabis addiction, you will benefit from the many levels of support that we provide, and we will ensure that you are placed within a setting that will foster the most beneficial outcomes possible.

Treatment for cannabis addiction can take place as part of our 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme, with the length and type of treatment that you receive, dependent on your unique condition and the severity of your addiction.

 What’s included in our 28-day treatment programme?

  • A FREE, no obligation addiction assessment - book your appointment today
  • 7 - 10 day medically assisted withdrawal detox if required
  • Individual 1:1 therapy, online therapy and structured group therapy programmes
  • Family and couples programmes
  • Access to both on and off-site 12-Step support groups
  • Free aftercare for 12 months following treatment (aftercare is provided for life following treatment at Priory Hospital Roehampton and The Manor Clinic)
  • Free family support for 12 months following treatment (family support is provided for life following treatment at Priory Hospital Roehampton and The Manor Clinic)

Cannabis Addiction Treatment options available at Priory

Detoxification - a closely monitored environment in which you can rid your body of cannabis while receiving support from our medical staff. This involves replacing the drug in your body for alternative medication that helps to reduce the side effects of withdrawal and keep associated feelings of anxiety under control.

Residential rehabilitation - inpatient treatment services offer 24-hour care and support for patients who need more intensive care.

Day care - used as a step-down from residential treatment or a step-up from outpatient care, this flexible option is used to promote continued recovery.

Outpatient therapy – the least intensive treatment option available, this level of care involves patients attending a Priory hospital or clinic, usually for a set number of hourly sessions, which take place on a weekly basis.

Patients at Priory will also have access to a wide variety of treatments, including both individual and group therapy. Individual therapy provides a private space to process your challenges throughout treatment, explore past issues that may have contributed to your addiction, and to develop coping skills for continued success after treatment.

Group therapy is an excellent means of combating the sense of isolation that many people struggling with an addiction can experience. In groups, patients can share their stories and learn from others who have gone through similar experiences. While at Priory, patients will have the option to attend many types of therapy groups including the following:

  • Assertiveness therapy
  • Body image therapy
  • Educational and vocational programmes
  • Exercise and activity classes
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Psycho-educational workshops
  • Creative and experiential groups

Priory understands that taking the first steps towards recovery for cannabis addiction can be daunting. This why we offer you a free and confidential addiction assessment with an understanding environment, which helps you understand the extent of your addiction and the options available to you in order to help you regain control of your life free from cannabis.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here.

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