Updated on December 7, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
An unfortunate problem within the medical field is dependency. Many medications can cause patients to become dependent, which harms not only them, but also to the people who care about them. That’s why it’s essential for all patients to understand dependency before beginning any treatment plan.
Outside of dependency, medical weed can cause side effects that are less severe, like red eyes, drowsiness and hunger. As a patient, it’s critical to understand that your doctor is weighing these side effects against the benefits of medical pot and will only recommend it if they feel it offers more positives than negatives.
In some instances, your medical cannabis physician may even consider how the side effects could benefit you. Patients with insomnia, for example, might receive a recommendation for medical marijuana because it can cause drowsiness.
With dependency, there is no strict cause-and-effect process as with other side effects, like fatigue. While some studies show that those with an increased tolerance or a mental disorder are more prone to becoming dependent on medical weed, this is not the case for every patient.
Compared to other medications, such as opioids, medical cannabis has a lower risk of dependency. Around 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opiates will misuse them and become dependent. In comparison, only 10 percent of people who try marijuana experience dependency. Studies have shown men are more likely to become dependent on marijuana than women.
Dependency on medical cannabis has several tell-tale symptoms, including:
For those who become dependent on medical weed, the process is gradual. If you are a caregiver, some initial signs your patient is becoming more reliant on medical marijuana may be them raising their dose or usage of medical pot outside of their physician’s recommendation.
With continued dependency, there are several long-term effects, including damaging your relationship with family and friends. Lacking productivity and prioritizing medical cannabis can also result in the loss of employment opportunities.
Other effects that result from consuming excessive amounts of medical weed on a regular basis include:
Due to the potential long-term effects of dependency, it’s essential to use your medical marijuana as instructed.
For patients, it’s often difficult to recognize they’re becoming dependent on medical marijuana until they already are. That’s why it’s essential to have a support system around you, whether that’s your family and friends or your medical cannabis physician.
Share with them if you’ve begun using more medical weed than recommended, or track your usage and review it each month to see if you’ve started to increase your dosage or frequency. Understanding dependency and taking proactive steps to prevent it is essential.
If you think you may have become dependent on medical pot, talk to your doctor.
While many physicians find the benefits of medical cannabis outweigh its side effects, it’s essential to understand the risk of dependency with any medication. To ensure you’re using medical weed as instructed, continue to meet with your medical marijuana doctor regularly to keep them updated of any challenges you’re experiencing.