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Cannabis has often been assumed as one of the more harmless drugs. SCAN invited Boris Mackey from Rehab 4 Addiction to explain the lesser-known effects of cannabis addiction.
Of course, its effects are less powerful than heroin and cocaine and other class A drugs. It’s less addictive. It’s much more commonplace among students.
However, it can still be dangerous.
We’ll start with the obvious one. There is a known link between cannabis and psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia. If you have schizophrenia, cannabis can increase the chance of a psychotic episode. If you don’t have it, cannabis can increase the chance of you developing it, especially if you have a genetic predisposition towards these sorts of mental illnesses (whether you’re aware of this existing vulnerability or not).
Certain factors make the chance of developing schizophrenia higher. For instance, smoking marijuana regularly is a risk factor. As is smoking stronger weed and smoking from a young age.
Schizophrenia is a serious and debilitating mental health condition. It makes it hard to tell the difference between reality and what’s going on in your head. If there’s any risk that you may be developing schizophrenia, you should consider your habit choices now.
On the less obvious threat to mental health, let’s consider the other impacts of smoking cannabis. Good mental health is reliant on your lifestyle.
Eating healthily is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle. Smoking cannabis makes you more likely to eat junk food. If you’ve ever heard about the ‘munchies’, this is where it stems from – some cannabis highs can increase appetite, which is why it’s prescribed to patients struggling with appetite. However, in people who don’t have a poor appetite, it can cause the beginning of a poor diet that is hard to shift. Sugar is addictive and the more of it we eat, the more of it our body craves. One bout of ‘munchies’ could take a long time to recover from and may cause long-lasting cravings and side-effects on mental and physical health.
Sleep is another important part of a good lifestyle. It is unclear whether cannabis has a negative impact on sleep, although the evidence suggests that long-term use could make it harder for you to get to sleep or even build up a dependence on cannabis in order to sleep at all. It can also prevent you from getting deep sleep which is vital for balanced hormone release and maintaining memory.
Exercise is the third and final pillar of a good lifestyle. Cannabis makes it harder to get motivated for exercise (and indeed, most things). It tends to make people relaxed and sleepy, which in turn makes you less likely to go out for a jog but also, cannabis can reduce activity in the motor neuron, the thing that tells your muscles to contract. Over-use can mean a long-term aversion to exercise that will be detrimental to physical health.
While short-term, controlled use of marijuana may not cause long-term effects, it can be difficult to maintain control. Over 4 million people in the US suffer from an addiction to marijuana and young people can be 7 times as likely to become addicted. There are a lot of rumours that cannabis is not addictive but these are, for the most part, false.
It’s worth considering how much you’re smoking, and whether it’s putting your physical and mental health at risk. Smoking cannabis is not as harmless as you might think. Make informed choices.