Cannabis Addiction & Abuse

You’re not alone if your cannabis use has spiralled out of control.

As the most widely abused illegal drug in the UK, if you feel your cannabis use has spiralled out of control, you’re not alone. There are a lot of misconceptions about weed, with some people even claiming it isn’t an addictive substance. You have no reason to feel ashamed if you’ve struggled to reduce your intake or stop but can’t. Cannabis use disorder is very real. There are more people seeking help for cannabis abuse than all drugs apart from alcohol, crack cocaine and heroin. (1)

Here at Sanctuary Lodge, we have helped countless people overcome drug addiction, including to marijuana. Each person is unique, and we tailor a structured care plan according to your individual needs. With guidance from our specialist team, individual therapy, group therapy and an array of holistic therapies, you can get back on track to realising your full potential.

Cannabis Abuse Vs Addiction – What’s the Difference?

There’s a fine line between abuse and addiction with all drugs, and cannabis is no different. Abuse relates more to issues in your life that occur because of using too much of a substance. For instance, legal problems as a result of smoking weed, an inability to manage your responsibilities such as work and school and ongoing use of cannabis despite these issues are signs of drug abuse. Seeking help now, before addiction develops, will make a huge difference to your future.

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. In order to become addicted, you will have used cannabis to the extent that your body and mind go through withdrawal symptoms when you no longer have it. If you find you that you’ve needed more and more weed to achieve the desired effects, you’ve developed a tolerance to THC. These factors, as well as finding that your lifestyle revolves around cannabis and you’re becoming isolated from friends and family, are signs of addiction.

If you’re reading this because you think you need help, take a moment to feel proud and congratulate yourself. As the saying goes, the first step towards recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

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What Causes Cannabis Addiction?

There is a range of factors at play when it comes to the causes that make people to get addicted to weed. Genetic vulnerability to mental health issues, upbringing, early use of tobacco and alcohol, starting to use cannabis at a young age, family substance abuse, dysfunctional family relationships and peer pressure are the most strongly associated risk factors.

Environmental factors

Most scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors interact to put you at risk of developing an addiction. If you have a friend who is able to start and stop using cannabis at will, they have not only had different life experiences as you but their genes are also completely different. Family is an important contributing factor, especially if your parents use drugs themselves or you have had difficult family circumstances or experienced traumatic events at a young age.

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol from a young age are risk factors, as well as simply starting to smoke cannabis when you’re young. It has been shown again and again that using drugs from a young age greatly increases your risk of developing an addiction sooner or later. Peer pressure and how popular and easy it is to obtain, even for schoolchildren, also make you more likely to get addicted to weed.

Genetic factors

Genetic risk factors relate to how vulnerable you are to developing certain psychological conditions that, in turn, increase your risk of developing an addiction. While your genetics don’t necessarily cause you to try cannabis or smoke it occasionally, problematic cannabis use is strongly connected to your genes. Usually, there is a genetic basis for problem or sensation-seeking behaviour, as well as being predisposed to react in certain ways to weed.

That said, not everyone who has certain genes goes on to become addicted to cannabis, and neither does everyone who has a history of drug-taking in their family. It’s a complex interaction of these many factors that ultimately predisposes people to addiction.

Repeated Exposure

Repeat exposure is a strong risk factor in becoming addicted to marijuana. Enjoying the first time you do it and not feeling any negative effects can encourage you to continue chasing that high. As you use the drug more and more, you need to take more in order to get the same feeling. This is known as building a tolerance. Likewise, if you spend a lot of time around people who use cannabis, your chances of becoming a regular user are greatly increased.

Signs and Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction


  • Paranoia
  • Euphoric/spaced-out behaviour
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Loss of interest in social life
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Defensiveness
  • Bouts of agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Lost sense of time
  • Poor judgement
  • Intense cravings
  • Using cannabis to relieve stress
  • Struggling to concentrate at work, school or home life


  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Shaking and nausea when you don’t use it
  • Increased appetite
  • Lack of self-care, e.g., hygiene and appearance
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Impaired coordination
  • Tiredness
  • Poor dental hygiene as a result of dry mouth


  • Poor attendance/performance at work or school
  • Neglecting relationships and responsibilities
  • Putting cannabis use before everything else
  • Devoting an excessive amount of time to obtaining and using marijuana
  • Continuing to use cannabis despite negative consequences (3)

Getting Help for Cannabis Addiction

If anything on this page has struck a chord with you, you might be caught up in an addiction to cannabis. While realising you’re not in control of your actions can be difficult and scary, ultimately, it’s the only way to put the power back in your hands. There are several options for getting help, each with varying levels of success.

Inpatient Cannabis Rehab

Inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab, involves staying at a facility for an amount of time that is relative to how advanced your addiction is. You’ll usually stay in cannabis rehab for a month, but sometimes longer is required. Firstly, you’ll go through the detoxification process, which flushes all traces of the drug from your system. At this stage, medication might be given to help ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting marijuana after continued, long-term use.

When you stay at a residential facility like Sanctuary Lodge, your days are highly structured and full of activities intended to give you the tools to live a life without cannabis. You’ll undergo a mixture of group therapy, individual therapy and a host of holistic therapies.

We strongly believe in a holistic approach to treating addiction, which affects the body, mind and spirit. Yoga, mindfulness, art therapy, music therapy and a family support programme are just some of the ways we help you to overcome this struggle. When you stay at an inpatient facility, you have 24-hour access support from our expert addiction team. You’re also removed from your day-to-day life, which can be a good way to kick-start a new, drug-free lifestyle.

Outpatient NHS programmes

If you’re ready to seek help, your first port of call is likely to be your GP, who can advise you on the options available to you. The NHS can usually offer outpatient treatment, where you spend the daytime at a facility but go back home at night. While the days are structured and you’re usually given a mixture of group and individual therapy, complementary therapies aren’t always available. If you have commitments such as work or school, however, this could be the best option.

If cannabis addition hasn’t taken over your life to the extent that you’ve lost your job or place in education, outpatient treatment is likely to be sufficient. That said, there are often long waiting lists on the NHS, and time is of the essence. Marijuana abuse can escalate to addiction over the course of several months. Outpatient care can be particularly useful following on from a stay in a residential rehab facility, as aftercare is just as important as detox or rehab.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Cannabis Anonymous have proven to be some of the most promising forms of treatment for people suffering from addiction. During these peer-led meetings, a professional counsellor oversees a group of people who are suffering from a similar condition. The group gives and receives advice as well as sharing stories of addiction and recovery.
This type of group can be especially useful during and after the recovery process, as people at varying stages of recovery help each other. This gives you a sense of autonomy and helps to build confidence while putting yours’ and other people’s problems into perspective. (4)

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Cannabis Addiction FAQ

How Addictive is Cannabis?
You may have heard people say in popular literature that cannabis is harmless and isn’t addictive. However, recent studies into the nature of addiction show that any pastime that causes a change in mental state can be addictive if you have certain genes or life experiences. Globally, over 22 million people are believed to suffer from cannabis dependence, which is equivalent to 0.3%. Attitudes towards the drug are ever-changing, and more research is needed to gain a full understanding of its effects. (5)

Recent science has shown that people who start smoking cannabis during their teenage years or use it every day are more likely to go on to develop an addiction to the substance. Contrary to popular opinion, up to 10% of people who use marijuana regularly become dependent on it. (6)

Is Cannabis Physically Addictive?
When you stop taking cannabis after prolonged use, you undeniably experience symptoms such as clammy hands, mild shakiness and sensitivity to light and sounds. That said, it does not cause the extreme, unbearable physical symptoms experienced by people who stop using substances such as alcohol and heroin. As such, doctors tend to not see cannabis as physically addictive.

If you’ve been through cannabis withdrawal, you know that it’s very real and very unpleasant. In most cases, it’s unpleasant enough to prevent long-term, heavy users from stopping. The other side of this type of addiction is that when people stop using, they are forced to face up to their emotions without the dulling that cannabis offers. This can lead you to quickly begin using it again so you can cope with life better.
Please understand that there are healthy methods you can learn to cope with emotions and stress. At Sanctuary Lodge, we teach you multiple skills and methods through a mixture of traditional and holistic therapy.

How can I Help Someone Struggling with Cannabis?
If someone you know and care about is suffering from what appears to be problematic cannabis use, there are many ways you can help them. If you’ve never experienced addiction yourself, it can seem illogical, but bear in mind that it is a real condition and not something people can just ‘snap out of’. While the sufferer may be causing you stress, try not to get angry or upset with them as this can make the situation worse.

Talk to them about recovery and suggest the idea of rehab. Reading through expert information together, instead of relying on your own knowledge, can be an effective way to encourage a loved one to seek treatment. You can also seek advice from an addiction specialist on the best way to help your loved one.

How Long Does it Take to get Addicted to Cannabis?
There is no time frame when it comes to cannabis addiction, because the main risk factors are genetic and environmental. For some people, the experience they have the first time they smoke it is enough to cause them to continue chasing that high. For others, it takes a prolonged amount of time spent using cannabis regularly for addiction to develop.
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