How do we define addiction? Is it a chemical dependence of our organism on specific elements? Can it be a psychological dependence on such things as food or sex? And what causes the withdrawal effect? Considering all these questions, can we say that cannabis is addictive based on it causing pleasurable responses in our brain? The professor at the University of Washington, Roger Roffman, explained the nature of cannabis and whether it can be considered an object of addiction.
The nature of addiction
The fact is, the notion of addiction is different for scientists and the public. In general, addiction and dependence are a combination of both psychological and biological factors that together create behavioral patterns that people can hardly resist.
While professor Roffman is focused on these two factors, the author of the Drug War book Chasing the Screams, Johann Hari, dwells on the third important factor—environment. The writer even places this part of addiction above the biological one. He says that humans need to connect and bond with people around, so, in times when we are isolated due to trauma, depression or other reasons, we tend to connect with other things that bring us relief. And, so, addiction is only a consequence of our disconnection.
Though the theory is rather hard to comprehend, it also can be explained by the human need to compensate overly for the lack of something important with other things that sometimes turn out to be obsessions.
Cannabis use disorder
In medical and scientific circles, the term “cannabis addiction” is not used at all. Instead, people use the term “cannabis use disorder” that is listed in the DSM-5, a Manual of Mental Disorders. The Manual lists 11 indicators of the disorder, including the amount of cannabis used, persistent desire, craving, time spent smoking and the influence on social activities. According to these indicators, doctors determine the severity of the disorder. These criteria become critically important in states where drug-related crimes require mandatory rehabilitation treatment.
Roffman explains that treating an occurrence of one or two indicators as a state of addiction is, in fact, overreacting. A person who is diagnosed with minor cannabis use disorder (one or two indicators) can not be considered an addict in any case.
Nevertheless, we should remember that, while most of cannabis users experience positive influence and even can be healed by the plant, there is always a minority that requires special help.
Controlling and studying the effects of such disorder is not an easy task, considering all prohibitions and restrictions that vary from state to state.
Despite denying the term “addiction,” medical circles describe symptoms of the withdrawal from marijuana though the term remains controversial. The withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, depression, sleep disturbance, anger and aggression, shakiness, sweating, headache, etc.
Does the War on Drugs misinterpret facts?
America’s answer to drugs and addiction is criminalization. Though the regulations vary from state to state, in general, drug use is punished by law—the addicts are sentenced to a mandatory in-patient treatment. The government thinks that in this way, the streets will be clean of drugs and crime rates will be lowered. In fact, this approach is not very effective and often creates the opposite effect. These restrictions create an environment that only makes it harder to recover.
Despite the lengthy history of “reefer madness,” our society has gone a long way in terms of cannabis education. Roffman claims that the news about how bad cannabis influences our organism are, in fact, only misinterpretations of science. With the legalization of cannabis, scientists will have more room to study the effects properly. For the movement to be mature and to achieve the common goal of cannabis legalization, we need to bring accurate and nonjudgmental information about the health risks that marijuana may pose.