Carl-Richard

"Physical addiction" is not a thing

11 posts in this topic

(Note: Do not rely on medical advice from online forums. Always consult a doctor before making any medical decisions.)

 

When it comes to weed culture, there is one super-strong meme that is based on a blatant misunderstanding of health: "weed is not physically addictive, only mentally addictive." It's wrong on so many levels: it conflates dependence and addiction, it misunderstands what fundamentally drives addiction, and it wrongly assumes that mental side effects are somehow less important than physical side effects.

 

Dependence and withdrawal

Dependence (and subsequent withdrawal) is very predictable and is something that everybody goes through after discontinuing drug use. It's essentially the process of re-calibrating back to the type of homeostasis that existed before initiating drug use. This process produces side effects that are qualitatively speaking the opposite effects of the drug. So if the drug produces physical side effects (e.g. constipation), you'll experience the opposite during withdrawal (diarrhea). If the mental effect is euphoria, then the withdrawal effect is dysphoria.

 

Addiction and cravings

On the other hand, addiction as an overarching phenomena is not reducible to such symptoms. It rather has to do with a drastic change in behavior, psychology and overall life conditions. When it comes to drug cravings (arguably the driving force of drug addiction), the main factor is positive reinforcement, particularly evident in drugs that trigger the reward circuitry in various dopamine pathways (which cannabis does). Positive reinforcement is what makes you crave the specific drugs you've had experiences taking.

Now, when you look at the symptoms of drug cravings, it's strictly speaking mental in nature. Cravings depend on thoughts, which are tied to previous drug experiences, and these thoughts (when unfulfilled) create feelings of mental distress. Therefore, the idea that "weed is only mentally addictive" is firstly, nonsensical, and secondly, an attempt to downplay weed addiction. All drug cravings, whether it's for opiates, amphetamines, cannabinoids or eating your sofa, are mental in nature. Saying "it's all mental" is not a way to downplay the problem.

 

So what is the deal about physical withdrawals?

Physical withdrawals are actually not the worst parts of quitting a drug. It's the cravings. Some people liken the physical side of heroin withdrawal to a weak cold. Of course, some physical withdrawal symptoms can be deadly, which is why it's perceived as a serious thing. Physical withdrawals from cannabis do exist, and I've experienced them myself (diarrhea, nausea, unable to eat food, stiff muscles, aches and pains). Stimulants like cocaine have very few physical withdrawal symptoms, yet they're still perceived as being highly addictive.

There is of course overlap between all these things, but it's the most accurate way (that I know about) of talking about these things. One example is that cravings can be classified as a mental withdrawal symptom (as they tend to happen more frequently during withdrawal), but you also don't have to be in withdrawal to have cravings. You can for example take a hit of cocaine, feel the rush, and then want to take even more. Also, having cravings doesn't automatically mean you're addicted. It's only if the cravings (along with other factors) are strong enough to cause a detrimental impact on your life.

 

Summary & tl;dr: 

The reason I'm writing this is because I see this misunderstanding everywhere, and it creates a harmful mentality around certain drugs and their addiction potential. The mental-physical dichotomy that most people hold in their minds is very inaccurate and is based on an intuitive understanding rather than a scientific understanding of the topic.

The most important point is to distinguish between 1. withdrawal symptoms and 2. cravings. 

1. Withdrawal symptoms are related to dependence, which can be physical or mental.
2. Cravings are related to addiction, which is fundamentally mental.

There is of course overlap, but I think it's the most accurate way of talking about these things. Withdrawal symptoms seem to cause an increase in cravings, but they're also not fully dependent on each other, which means you can think of it like this:                                                     

Withdrawal symptoms  => Cravings => Addiction <= Cravings <= no withdrawal symptoms.


Intrinsic joy is revealed in the marriage of meaning and being.

 

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Posted (edited)

Hard to draw boundaries between mental and physical, even after reading this. The theories explaining dependence and addiction are not actually/physically true, they're just theories. Neurotransmitters are a theory.

I feel like you're trying to downplay addictions as some sort of a soft problem that people exaggerate unconsciously. I feel like you might be including yourself with this message, too. The truth is that it's hard to quit an addiction whether you want to classify it as soft (just an addiction) or hard (mainly substance-dependent). I might be misunderstanding you here, though.

The withdrawal symptoms argument seems irrelevant because the diagnosis is unclear to begin with. Maybe the difference is simply in intensity, or maybe the settings in which you're cutting the addictions (which can vary a lot), or maybe something else. Maybe if you remove a certain stimulant quickly enough, it will produce withdrawal symptoms in some cases, while in others not. Maybe at two different points the same addiction will differ in intensity or some other factor(s) within the same person, and therefore produce two very different results each time the stimulant is cut.

It's just hard to tell the difference.

Edited by Gesundheit2

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20 minutes ago, Gesundheit2 said:

I feel like you're trying to downplay addictions as some sort of a soft problem that people exaggerate unconsciously. I feel like you might be including yourself with this message, too. The truth is that it's hard to quit an addiction whether you want to classify it as soft (just an addiction) or hard (mainly substance-dependent).

My intention is the complete opposite.

Quote

Therefore, the idea that "weed is only mentally addictive" is firstly, nonsensical, and secondly, an attempt to downplay weed addiction. All drug cravings, whether it's to opiates, amphetamines, cannabinoids or eating your sofa, are mental in nature. Saying "it's all mental" is not a way to downplay the problem.

 


Intrinsic joy is revealed in the marriage of meaning and being.

 

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Pretty sure meth is physically addictive.


You are God. You are Love. You are Infinity. You are Leo.

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Posted (edited)

@Carl-Richard Luckily ssri's are not addictive in this definition but they dependence forming. You can have withdrawal for months and even years if you reduce them in the phase doctors advice you.

Benzos are addictive I think.

 

Edited by Nivsch

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2 hours ago, Leo Gura said:

Pretty sure meth is physically addictive.

Physical dependence/withdrawal :) You can be in withdrawal without having cravings, losing self-control and destroying your life. This is why you can come off your prescription opioids without becoming an addict.

Cravings can come as a result of withdrawal symptoms, or they can be triggered by a random thought or perception without any withdrawal symptoms. This is why addicts can relapse many years after they've stopped taking drugs.

The distinction between physical and mental withdrawal is fuzzy, and all drugs possess both to varying degrees. The hype around physical withdrawal comes from the fact that some of the symptoms can be deadly, which generally applies to depressant drugs, but I haven't heard this about meth.


Intrinsic joy is revealed in the marriage of meaning and being.

 

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1 hour ago, Nivsch said:

@Carl-Richard Luckily ssri's are not addictive in this definition but they dependence forming. You can have withdrawal for months and even years if you reduce them in the phase doctors advice you.

Benzos are addictive I think.

Anything is potentially addictive. Addiction is when cravings override self-control to the detriment of your life.

 

1 hour ago, Ulax said:

I don't think you've accounted for the folks who have addictions as a means to dissociate 

What do you mean?


Intrinsic joy is revealed in the marriage of meaning and being.

 

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>> "Physical addiction" is not a thing

 

M'well, it is - for those who want to talk about it...  Others prefer to warn us gently that it will cause teenager males to grow mammary glands while simultaneously loosing their own male attributes...  Another story that resurfaces every Halloween is fentanil-seasonned candies, just to make sure.  Or smoking mothers being guilty to expose their unborn foetus, which has been claimed to cause babies to turn fat some 5 years after the, aHummm...  May i say "hatching"?!  Yano.

 

That's quite like a tube, there's 2 ends and those getting crucified on the public place are never alone:  look at the other end.

 

It works the same as death-penalty propaganda i guess.  Too bad people can become a sort of animal which doesn't only kill to eat, all it takes is an utopia...

 

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Intrinsic joy is revealed in the marriage of meaning and being.

 

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