Cannabinoid Addiction and Abuse

Cannabinoids are drugs that share active agents found in cannabis (marijuana) or were synthetically developed from those drugs. They are increasingly becoming legal, holding a potential problem for a rise in addiction for all ages.

Understanding Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are compounds that make up the plants hemp and marijuana. Cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which provides the popular “high” both felt as a “body high” or as a “head high” depending on the strand from which the drug came. It produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation as well as temporary lack of memory and attention. Cannabinoids from hemp plants are mainly cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has been studied for its therapeutic effects on the body, which does not produce the known high as THC does.

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History of Cannabinoids

These drugs have been around since the time of Ancient China. The Chinese used them for a variety of medical purposes. Using cannabis for medical issues has also been practiced for many years in the United States, up until 1937 when a federal law was passed banning the treatment.

Are Cannabinoids Legal?

Cannabinoids that have developed and taken from hemp plants are legal and can be found in many markets. However, cannabinoids derived from marijuana plants are only legal in some states, but legality is increasing. It is currently legal to use cannabis for medical purposes in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Doctors are increasingly prescribing these drugs for medical reasons such as relieving pain in cancer patients.

It is prescribed for its ability to:

  • Alleviate pain
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Stimulate appetite
  • Control nausea and vomiting (in cancer patients)

Keep in mind, these conclusions are based on small studies. Many people all over the United States have been using cannabinoids and cannabis for medical reasons; however, a majority of its nonmedical users use it heavily, thus abusing the drug.

Can You Overdose on Cannabinoids?

There have been no recorded deaths from using these drugs, and it is not possible to overdose. However, there have been many reported incidents on injury due to the “high” of the drug. The drug causes a high that slows motor function and causes lack of coordination thus putting the user at risk for injury.

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Common Forms Of Cannabinoids


The Marijuana plant contains natural compounds of cannabinoids. These plants have a long history of being abused. You can consume the plant in the form of “edibles;” however, it is typically smoked out of a paper “joint” or a tobacco glass pipe.

Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic cannabinoids such as K2 or Spice are manmade chemicals that coat plant material to imitate the effects of the THC high from a marijuana plant. Synthetic marijuana is much more dangerous due to the unknown chemicals made up within the drug and the critical side effects it brings.

Common Types of Cannabinoids Found In Cannabis

  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabidolic Acid (CBDA)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

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Side Effects of Cannabinoids

Although there are studies that show potential benefits from cannabinoids, there are many side effects from taking the drug. This shows that an addiction to this natural drug can be hazardous.

Some side effects include:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Hallucination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks

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Abuse of Cannabinoids

Fifteen synthetic cannabinoids are currently classified as Schedule I substances, indicating high abuse potential but no approved medical use under the US Controlled Substance Act.

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Like any other drug taken for a prolonged time, cannabinoids can impact your body in a negative way. Studies show long usage of cannabis, which includes cannabinoids, can damage the endocrine and reproductive systems.

Signs of abuse can include:

  • Heavy use/ use at all times of the day
  • Using it just for fun and not for medical purposes
  • Strong desire to use substance when feeling stressed or anxious
  • Choosing to use the substance over being with friends and family
  • Lack of motivation to participate in other activities

Withdrawals from Cannabinoids

Similar to any other drug, heavy users can experience disturbing withdrawals after stopping their consistent use of cannabinoids or cannabis. Many are similar to the withdrawal symptoms of opiates.

These symptoms can include:

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Statistics on Cannabinoid Use


Between January and May 2015, U.S. poison centers in 48 states reported receiving 3,572 calls related to synthetic cannabinoid use.


In 2013, around 4.2 million people 12 and older had a marijuana abuse or addiction problem.


By the time they graduate from high school, about 45 percent of U.S. teens will have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime.

Find Help Early

Cannabis as well as cannabinoids can be addictive. Because of the popularity of these drugs among teenagers, habits for taking these drugs develop early and prolong into the adult life. If you feel you, your teen, or someone you love has an addiction to cannabinoids or cannabis, please contact us today.

Last Edited: March 6, 2018

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