Is marijuana addictive?
As the movement to legalize pot gains traction in multiple states, so does the science suggesting that recreational use of marijuana, now legal in Colorado and Washington, may come at a cost. A growing number of researchers have concluded that the drug has addictive qualities. The National Institute on Drug Abuse puts a number on it, saying 9 percent of marijuana users will become addicted, and a first-of-its-kind study published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience concludes that the brains of even recreational pot smokers show changes in key regions associated with addiction.
Add to this a growing list of psychiatrists who say they treat marijuana addicts all the time, and you’ve got a fairly good case that quitting weed can be a real problem.
But last week, a man many consider among the world’s foremost authorities on the subject may have put the debate to rest – for the Deadheads anyway.
Grateful Dead Founder Calls Marijuana Addictive
“I know guys who are thoroughly addicted to marijuana,” Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir told the Huffington Post . “If they had to stop now, they’d get the shakes, they’d get the sweats — all that kind of stuff.”
All that kind of stuff also includes anxiety, sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, irritability, depression and headaches, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Weir, a founding member of a band many say encouraged its fans to have mind-bending adventures, is now, decades later, speaking of the perils of drug addiction. It’s no secret that “Deadheads,” many of whom followed the band from gig to gig, regularly consumed copious amounts of drugs. In fact, Jerry Garcia, the band’s late leader, openly promoted drugs, particularly LSD, in interviews.
Nearly 20 years after the band broke up, Weir is now speaking of the good friends he’s lost to addiction.
“Love yourself first before you go there, because you’re not going to find out anything about yourself to love after going there or from going there,” Weir said. “This is your psyche, this is your being. It’s going to be influenced, maybe a little bit if you go into it with a light touch, maybe a lot of it if you go into it with a heavy hand.
“Long experience has taught me that, personally, and, Christ, in the faces that are no longer in my life. It’s a lot of faces. I was good friends with Jimi Hendrix. I was good friends with Janis Joplin. Jerry and I were tighter than that — and they’re not here anymore.”
Of course, Weir was not claiming that Hendrix, Joplin and Garcia died from marijuana addiction, but he firmly disagreed with the popularly held notion that you can’t get hooked on pot.
So, now that the Dead have spoken – or at least Weir has, since he says he’s not speaking for his bandmates – just what does it mean to be addicted to marijuana?
Dependence on marijuana means that one needs to use the drug just to feel “normal.” In order to be diagnosed as marijuana-dependent, the user must experience at least three of the following in the one year:
- Tolerance to the effects of marijuana, meaning that more marijuana is needed to get the same effect.
- Withdrawal from the effects of marijuana, such as irritability, trouble sleeping and depressive symptoms.
- Using more marijuana than was intended.
- Persistent desire to stop taking marijuana or to cut down and being unsuccessful at this.
- Spending lots of time obtaining, using or recovering from the use of marijuana.
- Giving up important activities in favor of using marijuana.
- Using marijuana even when it is known that it causes problems.
One of today’s biggest names in music says she, too, finds pot addictive.
Lady Gaga revealed details of her marijuana addiction, explaining that at one point, she was smoking 15 to 20 marijuana cigarettes a day, according to news reports.
“I have been addicted to it and it’s ultimately related to anxiety coping and it’s a form of self-medication,” Gaga said on New Jersey’s Z100 Morning Show.
Marijuana Linked to Heart Problems
If it isn’t bad enough that weed is getting negative press from the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, a new French study says cannabis increases heart problems and may even prove fatal for young and middle-aged users.
Researchers in France who looked at 1,979 patients with medical problems related to cannabis use identified 35 serious instances of cardiovascular complications. Twenty heart attacks were recorded, as well as 10 cases involving arteries in the limbs, and three affecting blood vessels in the brain. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the patient died.
Most of the patients were male, with an average age of 34.
In a statement, lead scientist Dr. Emilie Jouanjus of the University of Toulouse said: “The general public thinks marijuana is harmless, but information revealing the potential health dangers of marijuana use needs to be disseminated to the public, policy makers and healthcare providers.”
“This unexpected finding deserved to be further analyzed, especially given that the medicinal use of marijuana has become more prevalent, and some governments are legalizing its use,” Jouanjus said.
The findings should prompt cardiologists to consider marijuana use a potential cause of cardiovascular disease in patients they see, she said.