A drug addiction is an addiction, in which one is both physically and mentally dependent on drugs. This means that your mind nor body can do without drugs anymore. Furthermore, we speak of a physical tolerance, which means that your body requires more and more of the same substance in order to get the same effect. If you consume a certain drug and feel that all three of the above conditions apply to you, then you likely have a drug addiction.

Since the use of drugs can have major consequences, a drug addiction is not only harmful for the person who takes the drug, but also generally has major consequences for the people around them

When you are dependent on a certain drug, this means that this drug is virtually the most important thing in your life. Your drug use will come first and you will do anything to satisfy your addiction. Social relationships often suffer, but so do work and other domains, as a result of your addiction.

How often do drug addictions occur?

While drugs are forbidden in most countries, it is often difficult to avoid the use and trade of it entirely. Because the use of drugs in Belgium is illegal, it is difficult to estimate how many people suffer from a drug addiction and what amounts of drugs are used. Furthermore, this intake also differs from country to country.

Research shows that the numbers of drug addiction when it comes to cannabis are quite low in adults; about 8-10 per cent of the adults who use cannabis, develop an addiction nonetheless. Especially those who use cannabis very frequently, have a larger risk of developing a drug addiction.

Adolescents, however, are more susceptible to a drug addiction to cannabis than adults. This is shown in research which sees that the addiction percentages are higher here, namely 15-17 per cent. In this group the age of first use can have an influence on the chance of developing a drug addiction to cannabis: if you are younger than 16 when you first consume cannabis, the change is higher that you also become addicted. The rule applies here, too, that those who consume cannabis more often are more likely to develop a drug addiction to cannabis.

It also often occurs that people with a drug addiction not only use one type of drug, but several at once. For example, it often is so that those who suffer from a cannabis addiction also start to experiment with other drugs, and even hard drugs.

Drug addiction occurs in all layers of the population. Even when used to forget a traumatic experience or because you are under constant pressure. Because of our growing society it seems as though the requirements we put on ourselves and others continue to grow, too. Because of the constant competition, the pressure to be better than your colleague/other companies, the pressure to continue to perform, it is possible that people in higher social circles, too, develop a drug addiction. Cannabis or 'joints' can, for example, be used to work against stress or to clear the mind.

Drug addiction? Do you suffer from a cannabis addiction?

Not everyone becomes addicted to cannabis. However, many people think that cannabis cannot be addictive, and that it thus cannot cause a drug addiction. This is not true; you can definitely become addicted to cannabis. Below, we explain the drug addiction to cannabis on different levels.

The physical addiction to cannabis?

As mentioned earlier, many people do not believe that you can become addicted to cannabis. It is not something you often here about. Still, it is possible! This can be measured, for example, at the hand of withdrawal symptoms, which different users of cannabis experience when they decide to stop. These withdrawal symptoms occur only in frequent users, however,who consume cannabis very often. Withdrawal symptoms, which can occur when cannabis use is stopped, can include the following:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sweating
  • Irritation
  • Feeling restless

Generally, these previous withdrawal symptoms occur in the same week in which the cannabis use is stopped.

The mental dependency on cannabis?

As with other types of addiction, a drug addiction to cannabis is linked to a psychological or mental dependency. In many cases there is a reason behind the drug use, such as the reduction of stress or the avoidance of certain thoughts, for example. By using cannabis you namely enter a different state of being, in which you can forget or avoid certain things, which makes it so that the daily 'rut' matters less.

After a while, however, it can be so that you automatically use cannabis or your drug addiction to cope with these feelings. You use it as a type of solution for feeling bad, worrying, stress, and the like. It thus can become even more difficult to quit your drug addiction and use, because when you stop, the 'solution' is gone, too. In many cases, this phase can be very confronting. If this is the case for you, it can be interesting to have a type of guidance or psychological support present.

The physical tolerance of cannabis?

The third factor which determines if you have a drug addiction to cannabis, is physical tolerance. This means that your body grows used to the use of cannabis and thus requires larger and larger amounts in order to achieve the same (wanted) effect.

With cannabis, however, there is a special phenomenon, namely a negative tolerance. This means that you require smaller amounts in order to get the same (wanted) effect instead of larger amounts. Your body becomes sensitive to your drug use and thus requires smaller amounts.

Physical tolerance must be separated from a larger chance of experimentation! It is thus not so that, because your body becomes used to the use and asks for more, that it increases the chance of use of hard drugs.

Drug addiction? How do you treat an addiction to cannabis?

As mentioned above, an addiction often comes from a mental 'demand' of placing certain feelings or emotions in the background. Here, it is useful to know that a drug addiction to cannabis does not treat these problems, but only causes a temporary intoxication. From the moment you stop using cannabis, the psychological discomfort can be present again. Except for this psychological factor, you also often end up in a physical vicious cycle, in which your body can be damaged and require you to consume even more.

Because of this, it is useful to treat your drug addiction to cannabis using techniques which replace these bad habits with learning healthy habits. It is namely often so that an addiction to drugs or another type of addiction becomes a temporary solution in order to avoid unwanted feelings. However, you can also choose for healthy habits which help these feelings disappear from your life in the long run.

15 Minutes 4 Me is an online self-help program, which daily guides you from home in learning healthy habits in order to treat your drug addiction to cannabis. Because of the daily follow-up, you can work on implementing and maintaining healthy habits, in order to reduce the need for cannabis daily!