Cannabis as Addictive as Heroin?

By Brent McCluskey 10/10/14

A new study claims that smoking marijuana can be as harmful to mental and physical health as shooting up heroin.

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While previous research has revealed the addictive nature of marijuana, one new British study claims the drug’s grip can be as powerful as heroin.

According to a 20-year study by Professor Wayne Hall, an adviser to the World Health Organization and leading expert at King’s College in London, marijuana isn’t just massively addictive; it’s also harmful to mental and physical health.

Hall found that 15% of teenagers and 10% of adults who regularly smoke marijuana are dependent on the substance and have extreme difficulty quitting. “If cannabis is not addictive, then neither is heroin or alcohol,” Hall said. “It is often harder to get people who are dependent on cannabis through withdrawal than for heroin. We just don’t know how to do it.”

The paper also noted the health dangers of long-term use of marijuana, which include cancer, bronchitis, and heart attacks. Cannabis use also doubles the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, and those trying to wean off the substance can experience anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and depression. “There is no doubt that heavy [marijuana] users experience a withdrawal syndrome as with alcohol and heroin,” Hall said.

Although some marijuana users are able to successfully quit, more than half return to the drug within six months, Hall found. “Rates of recovery from cannabis dependence among those seeking treatment are similar to those for alcohol."

In light of the new study, Mark Winstanley of the Rethink Mental Illness charity challenged the government to more effectively educate the public on the dangers of marijuana use.

“The common view that smoking cannabis is nothing to get worked up about needs to be challenged more effectively,” Winstanley said. “Instead of classifying and reclassifying, government time and money would be much better spent on educating young people about how smoking cannabis is essentially playing a very real game of Russian Roulette with your mental health.”

Meanwhile, Hall's study has been taken to task by media outlets comparing it to Reefer Madness-style hysteria.

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.