Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

June 4th, 2012:

Is cannabis addictive?

There is evidence to suggest that is is psychologically, if not physiologically.

According to the Observer, drug treatment centres are reporting a rise in the number of cannabis cases they are dealing with. Nine per cent of all those attending clinics cited cannabis as the main reason for seeking treatment, twice as many as a decade ago.

Michael Rowlands, medical director at the Priory Farm Place, says cannabis shows all the classic signs of dependency.

“There’s a strong desire to use, which overrides other activities, so friends and hobbies and work are neglected,” he says. “There’s difficulty in controlling the amounts you use. There’s a degree of tolerance developed so you need higher doses to have the same effect. And then you persist in using despite the fact it’s causing you ill health or debt.”

The main thing that separates cannabis from heroin or nicotine is that the physical withdrawal state is not normally as severe.

Almost all addictive drugs stimulate a part of the brain – called the mesolymbic dopamine system – that acts as a reward pathway in the central nervous system. Receptors for the active ingredients in cannabis have been found in this system. Once stimulated, these receptors begin a cycle of reward that can lead people to use more of the drug.

Rowlands says the apparent increase in cases of addiction might be nothing more than a product of the changing attitudes towards cannabis use. “Some of the stigma is going. People are much easier at talking about addiction,” he says. “There are vast numbers of people taking cannabis. Some of them, 8 to10%, will get some type of dependency.”

More concerning than any apparent rise in addiction is the potential to cause psychoses in heavy users.

Robin Murray, a psychiatrist at King’s College London, is one of Britain’s leading researchers in this area and his results are worrying. “The conclusion was that, if you took cannabis at age 18, you were about 60% more likely to go psychotic. But if you started by the time you were 15, then the risk was much greater, around 450%,” he says.

Tobacco Branding, Plain Packaging, Pictorial Warnings, and Symbolic Consumption

Tobacco Branding, Plain Packaging, Pictorial Warnings, and Symbolic Consumption

  1. Janet Hoek1
  2. Philip Gendall2
  3. Heather Gifford3
  4. Gill Pirikahu3
  5. Judith McCool4
  6. Gina Pene5
  7. Richard Edwards5
  8. George Thomson5

  1. 1University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

  2. 2Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

  3. 3Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development, Whanganui, New Zealand

  4. 4University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

  5. 5University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. Janet Hoek, Department of Marketing, University of Otago, P O Box 56, Dunedin, 9054, New Zealand Email:
  1. Portions of this article were presented at the 2010 Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference, November 30 to December 2, Christchurch, New Zealand.


We use brand association and symbolic consumption theory to explore how plain cigarette packaging would influence the identities young adults cocreate with tobacco products. Group discussions and in-depth interviews with 86 young adult smokers and nonsmokers investigated how participants perceive tobacco branding and plain cigarette packaging with larger health warnings. We examined the transcript data using thematic analysis and explored how removing tobacco branding and replacing this with larger warnings would affect the symbolic status of tobacco brands and their social connotations. Smokers used tobacco brand imagery to define their social attributes and standing, and their connection with specific groups. Plain cigarette packaging usurped this process by undermining aspirational connotations and exposing tobacco products as toxic. Replacing tobacco branding with larger health warnings diminishes the cachet brand insignia creates, weakens the social benefits brands confer on users, and represents a potentially powerful policy measure.