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Cannabinoid Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment

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What are Cannabinoids?

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Cannabinoids are one of the hundreds of natural components found in the Cannabis sativa plant. They are also synthetically developed. THC is one of the most well-known cannabinoids and is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis.

Cannabinoids affect the user by interacting with certain receptors in the body, called CB1 and CB2. These interactions between cannabinoids and the receptors generally affect the user’s memory, cognition, pain perception, psychomotor skills like driving a car or hand-eye-coordination tasks, and feelings of reward and pleasure.

There are different subclasses of cannabinoids, which include:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL)
  • Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and others)

The difference between these subclasses of cannabinoids is that some are known to be psychologically addictive while others are not. For example, CBD, CBC, and CBG are not known to be psychologically addictive but THC, CBN, CBDL, and some others are addictive in varying degrees.1

Cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant contain THC, which will produce a “high” that is characterized by feelings of euphoria and relaxation. On the other hand, cannabinoids from hemp plants are primarily CBD, which does not produce a high like THC does. Research has also shown that CBD has anti-anxiety effects and can reduce the psychoactive effects of THC in the body.

These drugs have been in existence since ancient times and were used medicinally in the U.S. for years until they were federally banned in 1937. Cannabinoids that are derived from the hemp plant are legal and may be used in many different products. However, those derived from the marijuana plant were previously illegal in the U.S. Today, medical and recreational marijuana is legal in many states across the U.S.2

Doctors are also much more likely to turn to cannabinoids and cannabis to treat several different medical issues, such as:

  • Pain relief
  • Anxiety treatment
  • Epilepsy
  • Treatment for nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle spasms
  • Glaucoma3

Although cannabinoids and cannabis can be highly effective in treating many medical issues, the increased legalization of these drugs across the country also increases access for recreational users who abuse large amounts of it regularly to get high. As a result, this may also increase instances of cannabinoid addiction nationwide.

Marijuana and synthetic marijuana (K2/Spice) are two common forms of cannabinoids. Both are frequently abused and can cause severe side effects, dependence, and addiction, especially among young users.4

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 43.5 million Americans ages 12 or older (15.9 percent of the population) used marijuana in the past year. Approximately 4.4 million Americans ages 12 or older (1.6 percent of the population) had a marijuana use disorder in the past year.5

Are Cannabinoids Addictive?

Certain cannabinoids can be addictive, including THC, CBN, and CBDL. Chronic use of certain forms of cannabinoids like marijuana and K2/Spice can lead to a substance use disorder or severe addiction.

Research suggests that about one in ten people who use marijuana will become addicted and people who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are also four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.6,7

Street Names for Cannabinoids

There are many slang terms or street names for cannabinoids, but some common ones include:

  • Dope
  • Pot
  • Grass
  • Weed
  • Head
  • Mary Jane
  • Doobie
  • Bud
  • Ganja
  • Hashish
  • Hash
  • Bhang
  • 420
  • Budder
  • Butter
  • Dabs
  • Ear wax
  • Errl
  • Honey oil
  • SAP
  • Shatter
  • Wax8

Examples of Cannabinoids

The most common types of cannabinoids found in cannabis are:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

How Long Do Cannabinoids Stay in Your System?

There are hundreds of different cannabinoids but most drug tests detect THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana. Various factors will influence the length of time that cannabinoids like THC stay in your system, such as your frequency of use, body mass, gender, metabolism, and hydration.

Below are approximate drug test detection times for marijuana:

  • Blood: A few hours
  • Saliva: A few hours
  • Urine: Up to 13 days for one-time use, up to 45 days for regular use, and up to 90 days for heavy use
  • Hair: Up to 90 days9

Side Effects of Cannabinoid Abuse

Using cannabinoids, even for medical purposes, can have some physical side effects that may be unpleasant or dangerous. These side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Food cravings (aka the “munchies”)
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Breathing problems

When a person uses marijuana to get “high,” it often makes them feel happy, relaxed, and hungry. It can also enhance senses like taste, smell, and hearing, which may also make them talk louder or laugh more often than normal.

Long-term abuse of THC can also affect brain development, specifically by impairing thinking, memory, and learning functions. Some chronic, heavy users may also experience intense cycles of nausea and vomiting, called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.4

Signs of Cannabinoid Overdose

It is difficult to overdose on cannabinoids, but if someone has used too much, he or she may experience symptoms like:

  • Psychosis or paranoia
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Seizures

Synthetic cannabinoids are more likely to cause an overdose and can produce more intense symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent/aggressive behavior
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Reports of cannabinoid abuse and overdose are increasing steadily as the number of synthetic cannabinoids produced increases.10

Cannabinoid Withdrawal Symptoms

If someone is addicted to cannabinoids, he or she may experience withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drugs wear off or when trying to stop using them. Cannabinoid withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness/anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Increased anger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea11

Although medical detox is not always necessary for cannabinoid withdrawal, it can help make the process easier by providing medical and clinical management of withdrawal symptoms, as well as personal recommendations for ongoing treatment like residential or outpatient drug rehab.

Signs of Cannabinoid Abuse and Addiction

The signs of marijuana use may not always be obvious, but if a person is abusing cannabinoids or is addicted to these drugs, he or she may:

  • Take larger amounts of the drug or use it more often than intended
  • Want to cut back or stop using but can’t
  • Spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from using the drug
  • Have cravings and urges to use
  • Be unable to manage personal responsibilities at work, home, or school because of his or her drug use
  • Continue to use even when it causes problems in relationships
  • Give up important social or recreational activities because of drug use
  • Continue to use the drug even when it puts him or her in danger
  • Continue to use when he or she knows the drug caused or worsened a physical or psychological problem
  • Needs more of the drug to get the effects he or she wants
  • Experiences withdrawal symptoms12

How to Overcome Cannabinoid Addiction

If you or a loved one is addicted to cannabinoid drugs, there is help available. Talking with an addiction treatment specialist can help you determine what type of treatment program is best.

Depending on the severity of the addiction, a medical detox program may be necessary to help manage withdrawal symptoms and offer clinical support for the psychological symptoms of withdrawal such as depression or anxiety.

After detox, residential rehab or an intensive outpatient program (IOP) can be an effective way to unroot the causes of addictive behaviors and begin making positive lasting life changes. Ongoing treatment after rehab via a sober living program, peer-monitoring program, and/or aftercare program can provide personalized support in early sobriety to help clients transition into daily sober life outside of rehab.

You may feel like you are too far gone to overcome your cannabinoid addiction but it’s never too late to start over. You don’t have to live your life this way any longer. Call (512) 605-2955 to speak with a Nova admissions representative today.

 

References:

  1. https://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/cannabinoids.htm
  2. https://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html
  3. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana
  5. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-annual-national-report
  6. https://www.samhsa.gov/marijuana
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31211826
  8. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/resource-center/Publications/Intel%20Products/DIR-020-17%20Drug%20Slang%20Code%20Words.pdf
  9. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-marijuana-stay-in-the-system-67791
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482175/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5414724/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5525418/

 

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