Unless you’ve mastered the art of microdosing, there really is no such thing as just taking one puff. It can be addicting: that euphoric feeling as you exhale the smoke, sometimes accompanied by a little or a big cough, then immediately feeling its soothing effects from your head down to your toes. It’s just what you need after a long day at work, and for some people, necessary to even begin their day.
So why do we crave cannabis so much? It isn’t supposed to be addicting.
A recent study published in the Human Brain Mapping journal shed some light as to why long-term cannabis consumers crave the herb. “Now that we have identified there are differences in large-scale brain network patterns in long-term cannabis users when there is craving, we can use these as biomarkers of cannabis use disorder to aid treatment strategies. Further studies are needed to determine how these brain network patterns might change over the course of treatment and recovery,” explains Dr. Francesca Filbey, PhD, director and professor of cognitive neuroscience.
“The findings add to the understanding that regions of the brain that do not perform in isolation, but through connectivity of multiple brain networks that signal to each other depending on need and state,” says the study, basically stating that when we crave cannabis it’s not something that’s static but occurs in patterns depending on the brain’s network of neurons.
Well, people especially those that have addictive personalities, can develop some sort of dependence on cannabis especially after using it for long periods of time. However, not everyone who uses pot will get addicted to it, and there are many reasons and factors involved with this.
So how come some people are more prone to crave cannabis than others?
One reasons is genetics. An old study examining identical twins that were brought up in different families explained that twins are born with the same risk of addiction, meaning that even if they were raised in different families, if one person develops an addiction, the other has a high chance of developing it too.
“When we look at the criteria for addiction, it has a lot to do with people tempering their behavior,” explains associate professor of psychology Carl Hart, PhD. “It has a lot to do with responsibility skills… It’s not perfect, but when you look at the people who are addicted, and you look at people who have jobs and families, they have responsibilities, they’re plugged into their societies, they have a social network, the addiction rates within those kind of groups are dramatically decreased from the people who are not plugged in with jobs, families, social networks,” he tells Healthline.
Additionally, the chances of getting truly addicted to cannabis are very low especially when you compare it to other addictive substances including cocaine, alcohol, heroin, or other stimulants. “The life-time risk of developing dependence among those who have ever used cannabis was estimated at 9% in the United States in the early 1990s as against 32% for nicotine, 23% for heroin, 17% for cocaine, 15% for alcohol and 11% for stimulants,” explains Wayne Hall, author of a paper reviewing two decades worth of research on cannabis.
Furthermore, over 9 in 10 people who use cannabis don’t actually develop an addiction to it.
What’s interesting is there is a higher chance of getting addicted to cannabis if you begin consuming cannabis during your teens. “The adverse health and social consequences of cannabis use reported by cannabis users who seek treatment for dependence appear to be less severe than those reported by alcohol and opioid-dependent people,” writes Hall.
Where Are The Dangers Of Cannabis Use?
Despite the widespread use and legalization of cannabis, it’s still a federally illegal drug whereas tobacco and alcohol can easily be accessed by the youth. But there is really no risk of using cannabis daily given the kind of relief it provides for millions of people around the world from a wide range of conditions: depression, anxiety, stress, opioid addictions, and numerous life-threatening physical ailments.
Meanwhile, casual daily use of cannabis doesn’t do anything to people but calm them down but incessant drinking can turn a regular person into a war freak at the bar or even domestic abusers. We do know today though, that there are ways you can consume cannabis regularly while being kinder to your body because using harsh methods of consumption such as joints and bongs can be harsh on your throat and lungs.
If you plan to use cannabis daily, why not opt for gentler ways to consume? Vaporizers, edibles, tinctures, and oils are some of the many excellent ways you can partake either medically or recreationally. Save the bongs for special occasions.
Cannabis itself is not an addictive drug, but it does interact with the brain’s pleasure and reward centers which is why it’s completely normal for us to look for it especially the longer we consume it. The same is true for other substances – even chocolate and food. If you consume large amounts for long periods of time, you may even find that you’ll need more cannabis to get the same effects as before, though the withdrawal symptoms of cannabis are so much milder compared to alcohol, heroin, and cocaine.
So go ahead and partake as much and as often as you want or need. Cannabis never was and never will be a harmful substance for as long as you know you can be a responsible user.