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Article Summary

Marijuana's Addictive Properties

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms identified. The November 2000 issue of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology reports that researchers have identified marijuana withdrawal symptoms as significant in 60 percent of study participants. "Most people think marijuana is a benign drug, and there is disagreement in the scientific community about whether withdrawal causes significant symptoms," said Dr. Elena M. Kouri, the study's author and associate director of the McLean Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory in Virginia. Kouri continued, "This study shows that marijuana [use] for a long time has consequences." The study reports that marijuana withdrawal includes increases in irritability, anxiety and physical tension, as well as decreases in appetite and mood.

Marijuana Addiction in Animal Trials

Marijuana acts like other addictive drugs in animal trials. Scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have demonstrated that laboratory animals will self-administer marijuana's psychoactive component, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), in doses equivalent to those used by humans who smoke the drug. Self-administration of drugs by animals, long considered a model of human drug-seeking behavior, is characteristic of virtually all addictive and abused drugs. Dr. Steven Goldberg, a NIDA researcher who was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, said that "squirrel monkeys will self-administer intravenous injections of THC." Goldberg continued, "This finding suggests that marijuana has as much potential for abuse as other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin."

Marijuana Dependence

Most marijuana addicts need extensive help recovering. A year 2000 study by Australia's National Drug and Alcohol Research Center (NDARC) found that only 10 percent of cannabis (marijuana) addicts were able to stop using the drug after a series of counseling sessions. Dr. Wendy Swift, one of the study's researchers, said that "many clients expressed depression, they also attributed problems with concentration and memory, isolating themselves from others, and lack of motivation to their cannabis use." The study's dependent cannabis users spent an average of 27 percent of their income on the drug. They began smoking cannabis at the age of fifteen and on average had used the drug for fourteen years.

A 1999 NDARC report found that 31.7 percent of cannabis users were dependent. The most commonly reported dependence symptoms were a persistent desire for cannabis, unsuccessful efforts to moderate use (36.6 percent) and withdrawal symptoms (29.7 percent).

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