Reports of cannabis dependency are one the rise. And while nobody has ever died of a cannabis overdose, becoming addicted to cannabis is a very real problem, according to San Francisco physician David Smith.
"There should be no controversy about the existence of marijuana addiction," Dr. Smith - who is also an addictions specialist - told the Boston Globe. "We see it every day. The controversy should be why it appears to be affecting more people."
As Smith suggests, reports of cannabis dependency rates do seem to be on the rise. The National Institute on Drug Abuse now estimates that there are 2.7 million Americans that could be diagnosed with cannabis dependency, making it second only to the estimated 40 million plus Americans that deal with alcoholism.
Signs of cannabis dependency include symptoms like chills, sweats, cravings, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, anxiety, and irritability.
As cannabis consumption rates have stayed relatively steady over the past decade, Smith sees the increase in dependency coming from the trends in cannabis cultivation. Marijuana addictions have been linked to THC content, and over time many cultivators have pushed the THC levels in their strains increasingly higher.
"Back in the day when kids were sitting around smoking a joint, the THC levels found in marijuana averaged from 2 to 4 percent," Smith said. "That’s what most parents think is going on today. And that’s why society thinks marijuana is harmless."
Of course, the desire to ever push THC levels is largely a symptom of prohibition. Something that could be rectified if cannabis was legalized and regulated to either cap the THC content or to introduce labels that let customers know the exact potency of the product they're consuming.