Behind alcohol, cannabis is the most frequently used recreational drug in the U.S. It is also the second most cited reason for treatment admissions in the U.S., again behind alcohol.
What the best available data reveals
Cannabis is associated with increased risk of mental disorders, including psychosis, depression, suicide attempts, cognitive impairment, interpersonal problems, poor academic performance and a motivation. In Europe, cannabis addiction has now overtaken heroin addiction as the most widely reported reason people seek addiction treatment.
Like all addictive drugs, many of the reinforcing effects of delta 9 THC (the psychoactive constituent of cannabis) are mediated by the dopamine system. Acute crude cannabis administration causes increased dopamine release and neuronal activity which new users experience as pleasurable. Whereas regular and long-term use is associated with blunting of the dopamine system, which is associated with depression and boredom—and not pleasure. Accordingly, the best available evidence indicates that cannabis, like other addicting drugs, can produce complex, diverse, and potentially long-term degradation of the dopamine system. As a result, the brain’s reward threshold is elevated, resulting in mood swings, motivational deficits, anhedonia, behavioral problems and of course, addiction.
Why Does This Matter?
The research is clear—cannabis is a harmful, addictive drug. So it is important to remember that smoking is injection of an addictive drug without a needle. Cigarettes, needles, pipes, spray paint, bongs, vaping, joints, brownies, etc., are simply “drug delivery devices”—or methods to efficiently deliver a psychoactive substance to the brain.
At present, in the U.S.,cannabis use disorder ranks second behind alcohol use disorder as the most cited reason for admission to treatment. This is not by accident. Cannabis use, especially among adolescents, causes loss of control and repeated harmful consequences