Cannabis Addiction Treatment

Cannabis is a plant, also known as “marijuana” or “weed”, which has many medicinal uses but is also widely used for recreational purposes.

What is Cannabis?

The principal psychoactive in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is derived from the cannabis plant in the form of buds and leaves. This induces most of the drug’s mental and physical effects, including euphoria, relaxation, a sense of tranquillity, paranoia, impaired movement and increased appetite.

How is Cannabis Addiction Treated?

Due to its reputation as a “soft drug”, if you use cannabis, you may dismiss the idea of residential rehab for cannabis addiction. However, although withdrawal symptoms when you stop using cannabis aren’t as challenging as other drugs, there are several advantages of cannabis addiction treatment at a residential rehab. 

Many people associate residential rehab with a medically supervised detox from drugs and alcohol. While this is an important aspect of the recovery process, it does not address the causes of cannabis addiction. One of the many benefits of residential rehab is that you take part in intensive therapy programmes. These are adapted to meet each client’s individual needs and are designed to explore and address any underlying reasons that might have contributed to your addiction.

At The Lighthouse residential rehab in Essex, our approach to cannabis rehab is compassionate and understanding. We do not judge or assume that each person’s addiction journey is the same, which is why we take such a unique approach to cannabis addiction help and treatment. During residential rehab, we offer a wide range of evidence-based therapies proven to help heal your mind, body and spirit.

Four key therapies at our residential drug addiction treatment and alcohol rehab facility in Essex are:

  1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) — is one of the most widely used therapies to treat addiction and mental health issues. During CBT, you are provided with the tools to identify when your thoughts may become problematic and develop strategies to refocus those ideas. 
  2. Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)  — This behavioural therapy has been developed from CBT. With the aid of DBT, you can learn to accept yourself, feel secure, and control your emotions, which can help you to control potentially dangerous or destructive behaviours.
  3. Group therapy —  Our group therapy sessions are designed to help you learn from the experiences of others. In group therapy, you’re safe to be open and vulnerable. You’ll learn to solve difficulties and develop stronger communication and interpersonal skills.
  4. Relapse prevention therapy  — This type of therapy teaches you how to apply relapse prevention techniques to your everyday activities and routine to stop or lessen the likelihood of cravings.

Our dedicated treatment team consists of medical and mental health professionals with years of experience effectively treating addiction. We know that the best way to provide cannabis addiction help is with a bespoke addiction treatment programme that is specifically tailored to your preferences, needs and challenges.

Treatment doesn’t end when you leave our clinic, and we’re aware of the potential struggles that exist outside of rehab. We offer all clients access to lifetime addiction aftercare and support.

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0800 170 1222

But is Cannabis Addictive?

Many countries, including many states in the US, have legalised cannabis, which has seen its medicinal and recreational use increase significantly. This has also given a false belief that cannabis is not harmful. Cannabis addiction has always been considered low-risk in comparison to other drugs. This may be because any negative symptoms of prolonged cannabis use manifest much slower than they would with opioids or stimulants. 

There have long been conflicting reports about cannabis addiction. This is based on whether cannabis is physically addictive. Current studies indicate it is unlikely that users will develop a physical dependence on cannabis. That being said, depending on the THC levels, cannabis can be extraordinarily potent. THC levels have been rising. In the 1970s, the average THC level of cannabis prepared for sale was between 3% and 4%. Today the average THC level is 12%, with some cannabis testing much higher. 

Drugs, such as cocaine, crystal meth and opioids, differ in their effects, but the symptoms of addiction are relatively consistent. Just as someone takes cocaine to make them feel confident and alert, people use cannabis to relax and unwind. It is this altered state of mind that can make cannabis psychologically addictive. When you use cannabis regularly, whether recreationally or to cope with the symptoms of illness, the psychoactive effects of THC can quickly become psychologically addictive.  

Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

Once cannabis reaches the brain, it works by interfering with its natural processes to boost specific functions. To protect itself, the brain resists the effects of cannabis so that each time you use it, the effects of the drug weaken, resulting in increased tolerance to the psychoactive effects. 

Consequently, this often leads to more frequent consumption and use of larger amounts when you have a higher risk of struggling with cannabis withdrawal symptoms.

Although cannabis withdrawal symptoms can vary, when you stop using cannabis, they will generally begin within 24 to 48 hours. 

Some of the most common physical withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tremors
  • Increased sweating.

Psychological withdrawal symptoms from cannabis use may include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Restlessness
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia 
  • Strange or disturbing dreams.

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms tend to peak between three to six days after you stop using and generally last around three weeks, although they can last longer. Intensity and withdrawal timeline from cannabis use will depend on the method and frequency of use, the amount you consume, and your general health.

Compared to withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction to drugs like crack cocaine, heroin, and many prescription medications, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are considered relatively mild. But psychological withdrawal symptoms can make it extremely difficult to stop using cannabis. Ultimately, the consequences of cannabis abuse might not be as detrimental as other drugs, but this doesn’t change the fact that psychological addiction can be as challenging to overcome as physical addiction.

Our brand promise

At Step by Step Recovery, we are dedicated to providing compassionate care and effective addiction treatment for every one of our clients. Our ultimate goal is to provide you with the tools you need to maintain a clean and sober life free from cannabis addiction.

The Effects of Cannabis on the Brain

Cannabis is one of the most popular drugs available today, and while it is typically viewed as a relatively harmless substance, it is still a psychoactive drug. Cannabis produces permanent changes to the brain, and many effects won’t appear until years later.

Many people use cannabis because of its powerful mind-altering properties. Positive effects associated with cannabis use are its ability to induce a calmer state of mind and a state of relaxation. But, due to its psychoactive properties, not everyone’s experience with cannabis will be positive.

Studies on the effect of cannabis on the brain show evidence of a reduction in the volume of grey matter (GM) in the orbitofrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex. These functional and structural alterations are linked to processing emotions, affect, and motivation. This can impair your judgement and decision-making. 

Short-Term Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis will affect everyone slightly differently. Temporary reactions vary from giggling and feeling euphoric to feeling relaxed and sleepy, often combined with an increased appetite, referred to as the munchies. 

Some of the short-term physical short term effects of cannabis include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness 
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Bloodshot eyes.

Additional common short-term effects of cannabis include :

  • Lowered inhibitions — Lowered inhibitions and increased confidence increase the risk of engaging in reckless behaviours, such as compulsive shopping, loss of inhibitions and unprotected sex.
  • Reduced response time — Response time becomes slower, making it very dangerous to drive or do any activity that requires fast response times. 
  • Distorted sense of time — It is not uncommon to develop a completely distorted sense of time and space, which can be detrimental when daily responsibilities must be done by a certain time. 
  • Paranoia — Feeling paranoid is relatively common and can cause people to make hasty decisions that they later regret.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks —  Due to how the brain is affected, some people will feel anxious and have panic attacks shortly after smoking or consuming cannabis.

Long-Term Effects of Cannabis

The long-term effects of cannabis can cause a combination of irreversible physical and psychological symptoms. These include: 

  • Inflamed and irritated lungs   If you smoke or vape cannabis, it can cause respiratory problems, resulting in persistent coughing.
  • Impaired brain function   Studies on the long-term use of cannabis have shown that it can lead to irreversible changes in parts of the brain, resulting in a permanent reduction in response time, memory, and attention span. 
  • Mental health issues —  Research has associated regular cannabis use with an increased risk of developing mental health issues, including paranoia, psychosis, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.

Alongside these effects, cannabis is linked to various physical and psychological symptoms. With varying levels of THC, the intensity of the effects of cannabis can be mild to severe. This will also depend on how much cannabis you use and how often you use it. 

Signs and Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease, and confronting someone about cannabis addiction isn’t always straightforward. As with other drugs, it is doubtful that someone with a cannabis addiction will admit to abusing it. 

Furthermore, as cannabis has become increasingly legalised around the world, it has also become more socially accepted. Consequently, many people do not even consider their regular use of cannabis to be an indication of cannabis addiction or think they may require cannabis addiction help.

If you or someone you care about is using cannabis, there are symptoms of addiction that remain the same, regardless of the drug. Recognising the signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction is the first step toward getting treatment and achieving long-term recovery.

Four common signs and symptoms of cannabis addiction are:

  1. Denial   Behaving defensively when asked about cannabis use or minimising its effects.
  2. Reckless behaviour    Saying or doing things you later regret or that have a detrimental impact on your life.
  3. Lack of Motivation   Not wanting to participate in activities you once enjoyed. 
  4. Withdrawal   Becoming isolated, relationship breakdowns, family and interpersonal problems, and avoiding socialising with people who do not use cannabis.

If you are worried about your or someone else’s cannabis use, Talk to Frank offers a free helpline for confidential support or assistance finding cannabis addiction treatment.

How to Identify Cannabis Addiction

Some additional signs can help you identify cannabis addiction in yourself or someone you are concerned about. These include the following:

  • Continuing to take cannabis despite negative consequences
  • Polydrug use; taking more than one substance to enhance the effects
  • Missing work and poor work performance
  • Obsessing over obtaining and using cannabis.

Risks of Cannabis Use

Although the long-term effects of cannabis addiction aren’t considered as detrimental as other drugs, there are still some long-term physical risks associated with cannabis use, including:

  • High blood pressure and cardiovascular problems
  • Lung disease and cancer
  • Higher incidence of mental health problems, which might require medical intervention and ongoing assistance
  • Increased risk of stroke.

At Step by Step Recovery, we want to help individuals break free from drug, alcohol and cannabis addiction. Please call our friendly addiction support team on 0800 170 1222 for free, confidential advice or complete our online assessment form for more information about addiction treatment at our residential rehab in Essex.


Cannabis is typically smoked in a pipe, bong, or roll-up with tobacco — commonly referred to as a spliff or a reefer. Other consumption methods include vaping and adding cannabis to food, often referred to as “edibles”. 

Cannabis may also be combined with harder drugs such as heroin, which can be smoked, or cocaine to counteract sleepiness, increased appetite and balance problems.

Addiction is said to be caused by a few contributing factors, such as environment, genetics and psychology. Cannabis addiction is associated with THC levels and usage.

Once you have become addicted to a substance like cannabis and your body becomes accustomed to its effects, it can be difficult to stop on your own. The best form of treatment is cannabis rehab in a residential rehab facility specialising in treating cannabis addiction.

Many people can use cannabis regularly without developing any obsessive or addictive behaviour. However, some individuals are unable to do so, and when someone has been using cannabis on a regular occasion, tolerance may increase over time. This means the desired effects of cannabis are reduced, and this could make trying other drugs more appealing.

It is very unlikely that you will suffer a fatal overdose from taking too much cannabis. Smoking too much cannabis does not present the same risk as overdosing on opioids or stimulants. This doesn’t mean that the drug is completely harmless though. The symptoms associated with taking excessive amounts of cannabis include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting.

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Page revised in March 2023, by Matthew Reece, a certified PG cons diploma, a clinical Lead/ Senior counsellor at Step by Step Recovery.

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