Michelin gourmet and Michelina’s Budget Gourmet both describe themselves with the same high-end gastronomic term, but the restaurant-rating group would certainly protest the notion that gourmet is equivalent in both contexts. An equally valid protest can be made when people equate cannabis addiction with substances that are physically addictive.
The risk associated with cannabis is psychological, and the primary driver for such addictions is other risk factors like genetic predisposition, co-occurring mental health disorders, neurocognitive dysfunction and sociodemographic and environmental issues. These same risk factors apply to process addictions like gambling, sex, gaming, eating, the Internet, shopping and other non-substance behaviors. Forget the ignorant stigmatization—process addictions are very real disorders, and addicts experience similar dopamine cravings that drive the compulsive behavior regardless of the consequences. Like process abuses, psychological cannabis addiction is rare, and it does not warrant criminal prohibition any more than overspending or overeating does.
Highlighting the rarity of psychological addiction, a medical doctor published a study in The Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice in 2007 that noted the following: “In my practice, 496/524 (94.6 percent) of randomly selected chronic users, asked if they had ever been completely abstinent for two weeks or longer, answered that they had, many for months or years. They had a variety of cogent reasons—being drug tested for a job application, probation, or the simple desire to see if they could get along without cannabis. None expressed the intensity of deprivation usually voiced by abstaining cigarette or morphine addicts.”
Though psychological addiction is rare, it is important to stress how serious the disorder can be. Physical addiction might involve more painful symptoms at the start of withdrawal, but psychological symptoms are often long-lasting and quite punishing. The withdrawal symptoms are commonly related to concurrent disorders like anxiety, bipolar or depression, and the symptoms of both can mutually exacerbate each other. As with process addictions, it is important for individuals with psychological cannabis addiction to seek professional help through a rehabilitation program. Seriously, don’t fuck around with this.