By now we know that nicotine and cigarettes are far more addictive and harmful than cannabis. Science and research, however, suggest that it’s slightly more complicated than that based on your DNA and general upbringing. Studies show that cannabis may be more addictive in certain individuals. Keep reading to find out how cannabis addiction research has developed over recent years.
Who Becomes Addicted To Cannabis?
Even though it’s less likely to become addicted to pure cannabis (not mixed with nicotine), researchers say anyone can develop addictive behavior. There is no particular group that is immune to cannabis addiction. Those most prone to cannabis addiction have a certain genetic profile that makes it more challenging to control their behavior and natural impulses. “Genes are one strong predictor of developing an addiction,” said Dr. Alex Stalcup, medical director of the New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette, California.
- “Studies of identical twins raised in different families support this theory. They have higher rates of an addiction co-occurring, which means that if one of them develops an addiction, the other is at greater risk for developing one, than fraternal twins raised apart.”
Where Does Cannabis Addiction Come From?
To break it down even further and simpler, cannabis addiction is more often found in those who are less responsible. It’s not a perfect science but the better control you have over your urges, wants, and desires, the less likely you are to develop an addiction. That goes for everything; not just cannabis. “When we look at the criteria for addiction, it has a lot to do with people tempering their behavior,” explained Carl Hart, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Columbia University.
- “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 kinds of groups are dramatically decreased from people who are not plugged in with jobs, families, social networks.”
What Makes You Feel Good?
No, really, ask yourself what makes you feel good every morning. The more bullet points in your mental checklist the better. Researchers claim that the more feel-good option you have, the less likely you are to turn to one single thing, like cannabis. If cannabis becomes your only source of happiness, you are likely to develop an addiction. On the flip side, say you have multiple hobbies that make you feel good: drawing, journaling, running, video gaming, and even smoking cannabis from time to time. You are likely to spread yourself evening among those hobbies rather than solely rely on one. “Most of us have a lot of choice in life of things that make us feel good,” said Gantt Galloway, PharmD, executive, and research director of the New Leaf Treatment Center.
- “Those who have fewer choices, who perhaps don’t have as rich a set of social interactions because their family life is difficult or because they have emotional problems that are stopping them from forming close friendships… those people may find drugs such as marijuana more attractive and be at greater risk for addiction.”
Cannabis Addiction and Mental Health
Last year sure took a beating on our mental health. Everything from riots to COVID-19 to political drama wore us down bit by bit. Research backs up the belief that poor mental health may trigger cannabis addiction, especially when dispensaries are largely considered an essential business, similar to liquor stores. Cannabis sales boomed like never before during the pandemic with record sales across the country. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily, but it just goes to show how people need a mental crutch when their lives take a negative turn. This can snowball into addiction if we’re not careful. Those with pre-existing mental health conditions are naturally more susceptible to addiction.
Have You Checked In On Yourself?
It’s perfectly normal and healthy to admit your mental health has suffered over the past year. Will 2021 be any better? That remains to be seen; at least we’ve started rolling out a vaccine. Make it a common practice to check in on yourself daily or weekly. In fact, make a list of all the things that bring you happiness. It can be the simplest things like scented candles or the smell of fresh laundry or your morning cup of hot coffee. No moment of happiness is too small.