Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana’s a hot topic these days. Not only is cannabis legal for medicinal use in 29 states, but there are nine states where it’s legal to use recreationally. It’s also legal for medical and recreational use in Washington DC. And, while this is a giant step forward for the countless advocates who have been working to see outdated marijuana laws undone, the number of people lighting up is significantly increasing.

While there are a lot of people that argue that smoking weed isn’t addictive, there are a handful of others who believe that pot poses a serious risk for dependency. And while marijuana isn’t addictive like cigarettes and heroin, it can still become a problem for the many people who are accustomed to using it on a regular basis.

Is Weed Addictive…or Not?

The question whether or not marijuana is truly addictive in nature is difficult to answer. Are there physical withdrawal symptoms? Psychological withdrawal? Does the user feel they need weed to help them feel “normal”? Is marijuana used to relieve boredom? Does it interfere with a person’s ability to partake in their everyday activities?

While the withdrawal a person experiences when they stop using marijuana might be mild compared to other drugs, there are many people who do feel withdrawal on some level without weed. These can range from mild to severe, depending on the nature and the habit of the individual.

When You Can’t Stop Using Cannabis

There are people who use cannabis regularly who feel they can’t stop. Some people with a heavy habit will smoke upon waking and continue to use throughout the day. When they try to quit, they find it impossible to function normally. Someone who regularly consumes marijuana and stops abruptly can experience a lack of focus, little motivation, insomnia, decreased appetite, headaches, and irritability. These withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 24 hours after quitting and can last for up to 2 weeks.

Despite the rise in cannabis use since it’s been legalized, it is still one of the least addictive substances available. And the number of Americans who smoke cannabis has doubled since 2002 (some 30 million people). Of these that use, it is estimated that about 9 percent will develop an addiction to it on some level. This number increases to 17 percent, however, when marijuana use starts in the teenage years.

For those who do fall into the cycle of addiction with marijuana, the effects of their abuse can be very real. Cannabis use disorder is the term coined for heavy cannabis use and includes the following symptoms:

  • Having the desire to stop using, but you can’t
  • Making sure you never run out of marijuana
  • Using increased amounts on a regular basis
  • Uncontrollable cravings to use cannabis regularly
  • Using affects your daily activities and relationships
  • Using in dangerous or hazardous situations
  • Continued use after the onset of psychological problems because of it
  • Using to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms

According to the DSM-5, the handbook on mental health, experiencing just two or of these symptoms in a 12-month period constitutes as a possible cannabis use disorder.

While this could be a bit exaggerated by some people’s standards, it is safe to say that, in some cases, marijuana does pose a risk for dependency. Whether it is addictive or not all comes down to the way addiction is defined. If someone is using marijuana in a compulsive way, that is interfering with their relationships and responsibilities, it could be considered an addiction.

Alcohol and Marijuana Compared

And although the very different in the way they affect a person, alcohol and marijuana are often compared. For example, a person who drinks socially a few times a week with friends wouldn’t be considered an addict. Neither would the marijuana smoker who uses to relax once in a while. A person pouring themselves a glass of vodka before work every day would be a different story. So would the marijuana smoker who feels they can’t start the day without using.

For the chronic marijuana smoker, a typical day might involve smoking soon after they’ve woken up, a few more hits in the afternoon, and more marijuana at the end of the day. For many people marijuana use is a way of life and they don’t do anything without it. Those with a heavy marijuana habit will use it consistently throughout the day. Smoking before, during, and after work is regular routine. For many people with a dependency to weed, they’ll use it even when they don’t feel like getting high. It just turns into something to “get a head change” or make the mundane tasks they do all day long seem more interesting.

While an addiction to pot isn’t going to pose serious risk of death like an addiction to heroin, it’s important to realize that it does have potential for serious abuse. And even though only 9 percent of all those who do use cannabis become addicted, the possibility for an addiction on some level is very real. For those suffering from withdrawal and looking for a new way to change, Ibogaine may be an option. Each person’s relationship to marijuana is different, but understanding there is potential for abuse. Keep this in mind when consuming cannabis.