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Alberta Researcher Aims to Shed Light on Marijuana Addiction

1 in 10 cannabis users develop a dependency

By Justina Reichel
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 27, 2012 Last Updated: November 27, 2012
Related articles: Canada » National
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Marijuana, hash oil, and munchies are on offer at a massive “4/20” rally in Vancouver on April 20, 2012. One in ten users develop a dependency on marijuana, which is a sizable number considering it is the most widely used illicit drug in the world, according to a Calgary researcher. (Deborah Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Marijuana, hash oil, and munchies are on offer at a massive “4/20” rally in Vancouver on April 20, 2012. One in ten users develop a dependency on marijuana, which is a sizable number considering it is the most widely used illicit drug in the world, according to a Calgary researcher. (Deborah Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Realizing there was a lack of in-depth research on marijuana addiction, a Calgary PhD candidate set out to discover how to help a seemingly forgotten group: those who become addicted to cannabis.

Although marijuana has few withdrawal symptoms and most people are able to quit, one in ten regular users develop a dependency on the drug.

Clinical psychology student Jonathan Stea notes that because marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the world, the minority who become addicted is still a very large group.

Stea recently completed an early analysis on data collected from 126 marijuana users who recovered from past cannabis dependency problems.

He says he decided to conduct the research in order to help develop “realistic” information about the drug, and find out how those who became dependant managed to kick the habit.

“Since cannabis seems to be the most widely used illicit substance in the world, there’s a significant minority of individuals who do develop a disorder with it, and so those particular people deserve good treatments and good information,” he says.

According to Health Canada statistics, 9.1 percent of Canadians over age 15 have used cannabis in the last year.

I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there … the perception does exist that it’s not addictive.

— Marijuana researcher Jonathan Stea

One of the challenges for people who become addicted, Stea notes, is the public perception that cannabis addiction is not a serious dependency.

“It’s a contentious issue. I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there … the perception does exist that it’s not addictive,” he says.

“So we’re trying to help those individuals who may have a cannabis addiction, and they hear a whole bunch of different beliefs out there floating in the media and among friends and family—it can be very confusing for people.”

Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Participants in the study were 70 percent male, with an average age of 37. They started using cannabis at approximately age 15, and had developed a dependency around age 20. The majority of participants also reported symptoms of other addiction or mental health problems at one point in their life.

“People that seek addiction treatment in general—and not only for cannabis but for alcohol and other addictions—also tend to have another co-occurring mental health difficulty like depression or anxiety,” says Stea.

“So it’s good in that we’re studying a population that we want to help.”

The top reasons participants reported for wanting to quit marijuana use include wanting to make a major lifestyle change; the realization that marijuana was affecting them negatively; and wanting to feel better emotionally (less depressed and anxious).

Addicted users reported that their dependency affected them by interfering with their life in areas such as work, school, or relationships, or exacerbated existing mental or physical health problems. Others reported a general sense of “loss of control” over their lives.

Approximately 40 percent of the study participants sought treatment for their cannabis addiction, while others naturally recovered.

The next portion of Stea’s research will focus on the differences between the users who sought treatment compared to those who recovered on their own. He will also compare those who gave up the drug for good versus those who still use it moderately.

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  • http://www.legaliseinternational.com/ Jayelle Farmer

    Jonathan Stea should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for allowing himself to be used as a tool of Alberta prohibition.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=838347849 Paul Nenninger

    This is BS. People who never have smoked pot have anxiety and depression. And most people who smoke feel less depressed or anxious when they smoke. Any addiction is in your head, there are no withdrawal symptoms that make you unable to function, and I know this Because I have had to quit for various reasons throughout my life and never had any problems with addiction and withdrawal.

  • EverNewEcoN

    Really entirely out of recognition that millions have, do, will use/used
    marijuana, and so as to add proportion relative to tobacco’s generally
    purported much greater causation of addiction (and its blanket-universal
    full systems spectrum devastation to the human body,) and to alcohol’s
    existence between the two, and also, so as to fill coffers, not prisons, and
    as importantly and of bottom line practical importance, to better finance
    DUI enforcement, I’ve proposed a public health state-retailer cooperation
    regime,

    I call it legal by toll.http://evernewecon.weebly.com/#legalbytoll

  • Ganja_addict

    OK, a lot of you really aren’t going to like what I have to say. You will either try to listen to what I have to say or tune out. I have smoked pot for years and years now and I was one of those people who would tell you that MJ is not addictive and can not exacerbate any currently existing mental problems like anxiety and depression. I have taken time to look into the various studies done that has shown the beneficial effects of MJ. I love smoking it. With all of that being said… Smoking it can most definitely become an addiction!
    One of the most common responses to this is it’s not physically addictive. (I know because I have worn out this stupid knee jerk response too many times myself.) OK, suppose it is “only” psychologically addictive. Does it really make a difference? Does it make an addiction less of an addiction if it is a psychological addiction? NO! It’s nothing but a play on words when you say an addiction is psychological vs. chemical dependency. It’s moronic. All addictions are psychological “and” chemical. Don’t believe me? What do you think drives your desires when you have an urge to do something? Hmmm… Could it be chemicals? Could you possibly become addicted to specific chemical states that your very own brain produces? Another dumb expression is, “It’s all in your head.” Well, duh! It is literally in your head, but does that make it any less real or concrete because it’s just all in your head? You’re not really addicted to weed, it’s all in your head. Does anyone else realize how ridiculously dumb this sounds? I already realize there are much harder drugs out there that can form an immediate addiction. I will say that there are many levels of addiction. Cocaine, heroine, meth, and crack are definitely going to deservedly be at the worst end of the addiction spectrum. That doesn’t mean that addictions that fall on lesser positions on the scale won’t be completely benign.
    The following paragraph from the above article sums up pretty well what I have experienced for myself:
    “Addicted users reported that their dependency affected them by interfering with their life in areas such as work, school, or relationships, or exacerbated existing mental or physical health problems. Others reported a general sense of “loss of control” over their lives.”
    Over the past couple of years, I have developed an unhealthy addiction to weed. I was smoking every day about 2 to 3x/day. It wasn’t always like that, I gradually started smoking more and more often and I would start to crave it badly if I went without. My memory was getting terrible, I lost interest in several things, and as you can imagine, my motivation totally went out the window. I tried cutting down to doing it a couple of times a week, but I would keep backsliding. Then, to once a week, but I would crave it too much, so once again I would give in. Finally, I decided the best course of action would be to eliminate it from my life once and for all. My head started to gradually clear up, I actually have less problems with depression and anxiety now, and in general, I can think so much more clearly now. I still crave now and then, but I have no intention of going back to smoking. I feel like my life is mine now.
    Despite everything I said, I don’t think prohibition is the answer. In fact, I am proud of Washington and Colorado for finally legalizing it for recreational use. I do however want to once and for all dispel the myth that marijuana is not addictive. It should be something that should be used in moderation, just like alcohol. I think there are better ways to take care of anxiety and depression than Mary Jane.


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