What You Should Do if You Suspect Your Cannabis Use is Problematic

August 5, 2020 12:35 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
What You Should Do if You Suspect Your Cannabis Use is Problematic

Simply put, problematic cannabis use can be defined as consuming so much cannabis that it begins to negatively affect various areas of your life. Although problematic cannabis use technically falls under Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) in the DSM-V, the variations in experiences make it challenging to accept that lower-risk individuals should be diagnosed with the cannabis version* of addiction. 

Taking care of your problematic cannabis use now should significantly reduce your risk of escalating to CUD. The biggest difference between CUD and problematic use is that the latter causes negative effects, but it does not mean that the consumer is addicted to, or dependent on cannabis. CUD was set up in the DSM-V to account for both problematic use and the more dependent use. 

cannabis use disorder

How to Identify if You Have Problematic Cannabis Use

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes more than two of these, your cannabis use is probably problematic and could be on its way to Cannabis Use Disorder. Remember, there are mild, moderate, and severe levels of problematic use and of CUD but being aware is best. 

In the last 3 months…

  • Have you consumed more cannabis than you intended and on multiple occasions? 
  • Do you struggle cutting down on quantity or frequency of consumption? In other words, do you feel like you have a lack of control over how much cannabis you consume?
  • Do you spend a lot of time thinking about or spending time on cannabis use? If yes, does it interfere with any day-to-day functioning? 
  • Do you find yourself longing for or craving cannabis frequently?
  • Has your cannabis consumption caused any problems in productivity or effectiveness at work, home, or elsewhere? 
  • Does your cannabis use take preference over social events? In other words, do you favor cannabis consumption over plans?
  • Do you turn down plans if cannabis can’t be worked into the plan?
  • Do you sacrifice budget in order to keep your cannabis stash stocked? If yes, does this put you in areas or in debt? 
  • Do you frequently have to increase the quantity you take to get the same effects?
  • Is cannabis the cause of any friction in your relationships (familial, friendly, or romantic)?
  • Do you frequently favor cannabis consumption when planning the day?

If you found that you have identified with having problematic cannabis use, it would be wise to take some steps to avoid any adverse outcomes. Luckily, death by cannabis alone will not on the list of possible problems adverse outcomes… in fact, you may find that working your way out of problematic cannabis use easier than you expected. 

Professionals are having trouble separating problematic use, use disorder, and just frequent consumption in the diagnosis of patients. Remaining educated and informed on the most recent cannabis research will be best yourself. Although, it is always recommended that you consult with medical professionals.  

Problems With the Identifying Cannabis Use Disorder:

  • Measuring the frequency of cannabis consumed instead of measuring adverse experiences. 
  • The quantity of cannabis consumed on a typical day is not considered when assessing problematic use. 
  • The screening tools employ a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and do not take context into consideration. 

Differences of opinion on how to screen for problematic cannabis use and debates about whether the tools are able to differentiate between ‘safe’ and ‘risky’ cannabis continue as professionals try to get a better understanding of problematic cannabis use, formally known as Cannabis Use Disorder. 

Tips for Recovery Before it Escalates to Addiction:

  • Think about your patterns of cannabis consumption. Being aware of how much you consume and how often will help you set out a plan to reduce while monitoring the progress. 
  • Analyze the reasons behind your cannabis use. Whatever your reason, outlining them clearly will help you differentiate between when you should rather hold back on the cannabis. 
  • It is difficult to change patterns of behavior, which is why it is important that you plan and record your cannabis consumption. Telling someone you trust is a good idea as they can help keep you accountable and on track.
  • Make a step-by-step plan for change. I know that it is not desirable to plan your consumption, but if your cannabis use is problematic, a step-by-step plan, when followed, will keep you on track.  
  • Reflect on the effects of your cannabis weekly. Check whether there are any improvements in the adverse outcomes whether its’ concerned with finances, relationships, or health. Reflections also serve as motivation as you see the victory you’ve gained from your own intervention. 
  • Staying positive and staying active are also important aspects when trying to recover from problematic use. Give yourself credit where it is due and make time for yourself through activities that keep you active and further boost your health. Daily affirmations, yoga, jogging, meditation and simply working out at the gym are a few examples of things that you would benefit from.
  • Take tolerance breaks.
  • Use a variety of different strains to avoid building up a tolerance to that strain.
  • Avoid adding tobacco to cannabis.

Patterns of cannabis use develop without much thought, however, changing them requires thought and intentional action. Luckily, it is easier to turn around from problematic use than it would be from Cannabis Use Disorder. Cannabis does have a low risk for physical dependence, however, over time, consumers may develop a psychological or emotional dependence without even realizing it

*Cannabis version due to sharing similarities but with nothing as adverse as is to be expected from other types of addictions. 

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