Could I possibly be addicted to marijuana?

Can you become addicted to Marijuana?

Marijuana — an herb plant that goes by many names: weed, mary jane, pot, ganja, dope, cannabis, the list goes on — has been a controversial topic of debate for decades. Supporters and opponents for and against the state-level legalization of marijuana have made numerous conflicting claims. Advocates believe legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, bolsters traffic safety, and stimulates the economy. Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement.

Historically, until 1913, marijuana was actually legal, both statewide and federally, throughout the United States. Due to rising anti-immigrant sentiments and xenophobic prejudices against Mexican migrant workers, often associated with the use of the drug, marijuana prohibition slowly began its roots with California in 1913 and Utah in 1914. Along with anti-marijuana propaganda — such as the classic cult film Reefer Madness (1936), which portrayed marijuana as “Public Enemy Number One” and suggested that its consumption could lead to a life of addiction, promiscuity, aggression, academic failure, homicidal tendencies, mental illness, insanity, and even death — marijuana effectively became, politically and socially, stigmatized.

Currently, under the Controlled Substances Act of 1990 (CSA), according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance which has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” with a risk for “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Only until recent years, have changes to marijuana policies across states legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use opened up the possibility that marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal properties. It is not a surprise then that these changes have garnered a greater acceptance to marijuana in our society; therefore, it is vital for people to distinguish between the myriad of myths and facts about both the adverse health effects and the potential therapeutic benefits linked to marijuana.

Whether marijuana should be illegal or legal, or whether marijuana’s medicinal benefits outweighs its health risks is a moot conversation since there is no concrete scientific evidence which supports nor invalidates neither of these claims. Scientific research, surveys, experiments, and data remain inconclusive. The purpose of this article is to open up a dialogue of the possibility of marijuana addiction from recreational, medical, and chronic use.

Is marijuana addictive?

Despite marijuana’s controversial politics and conflicting social perceptions, it is crucial to keep in mind that marijuana is a drug with addiction potential. The use of marijuana can lead to problem use, which is labeled as marijuana use disorder. Severe cases of marijuana use disorder takes on the form of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.

What is marijuana use disorder?

Marijuana use disorder is a diagnostic categorical term for marijuana abuse as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 has set forth specific criteria to determine whether a person can be diagnosed with marijuana use disorder and its severity. For a person to be diagnosed with marijuana use disorder, they must display two of 11 symptoms within the same 12-month period.

11 signs that you may have marijuana use disorder:

1. Loss of control: using more marijuana or using it for a longer period of time than intended
2. Social impairments: not engaging in important work, social, hobbies, or recreational activities because of marijuana use
3. Inability to stop: having the desire to quit or to reduce the amount of marijuana used but not being able to do it
4. Ignoring risks: Ongoing use of marijuana despite dangers that arise around it
5. Cravings: Experiencing an urge to use marijuana when not using it
6. Frustration of existing issues: Ongoing use even though marijuana use is worsening an existing physical or psychological problem
7. Troubles in main spheres of life: Due to the marijuana use, not being able to perform to one’s familiar standard at home, work, or school
8. Tolerance building: Over time, needing more marijuana in order to get the desired, familiar effect
9. Disregarding problems caused by use: Despite the negative impact that the marijuana use is having on relationships, continuing to use the drug
10. Withdrawal: When not taking the familiar amount of marijuana or when stopping use completely, the emergence of withdrawal symptoms
11. Disproportionate focus: Dedicating too much time and too many resources to marijuana use

The danger from marijuana use is that it is difficult to discern between recreational use or abuse out of necessity and familiarity. A person may not be able to recognize and realize that their use has become problematic. Hence, it is crucial to learn about some additional signs associated with marijuana abuse.

Physical signs of marijuana abuse:

  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth (commonly known as “cotton mouth”)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased coordination and motor function
  • Distorted perceptions (sights, sounds, time, touch)
  • Daily cough and phlegm, emerging symptoms of bronchitis, acute respiratory problems/illnesses
  • Increased appetite during abnormal hours

Psychological signs of marijuana addiction:

  • Problems with memory and/or concentration
  • Impaired attention, judgment, and difficulty learning
  • Diminished verbal ability
  • Developing psychosis (uncommon and severe)
  • Feelings of paranoia and anxiety

Behavioral signs of marijuana addiction:

  • Heavy use of deodorizers in order to mask the smell of marijuana
  • Appearance or disappearance of marijuana related items: rubbing alcohol, matches, lighters, ashtrays, eye drops.
  • Participation in criminal activities and deviant/rebellious behavior
  • Decreased motivation and abandoning goals: lower grades or dropping out of school, increased absence from school or work
  • Withdrawing from social circles that forbid/condemn use of marijuana (e.g. parents, partners, friends, co-workers)

What is tolerance?

Over time, the use of marijuana can lead to tolerance, which means that an individual will need to increase the amount consumed or require a more potent dosage to create the desired effects that they initially felt. Tolerance does not mean that the drug no longer produces the effects that it initially did, but rather the effects were felt to be reduced over time.

What is dependence?

Marijuana dependence occurs when a person’s brain chemistry adapts to high levels of usage or chronic use and thereby reduces sensitivity and effectiveness to the drug. As tolerance is built up from using marijuana, or when marijuana use has been significantly reduced or ceased, withdrawal symptoms can occur. While these withdrawal symptoms persists, marijuana users may be inclined to use the drug again in order to relieve the symptoms.

Signs of marijuana withdrawal:

  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Excessive sweating or night sweats
  • Anger and fluctuating emotions
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Cravings for continued use
  • Loss of appetite

According to “Marijuana and Medicine,” a research paper published by the Institute of Medicine, adolescents and people with psychiatric disorders (including substance abusers) appear to be more likely than the general population to become dependent on marijuana. Studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that nine percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. Individuals who began using marijuana in their teens have a 17 percent chance of becoming dependent. Regular use of marijuana increases the chance of dependency from 25 to 50 percent. To put things into perspective, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, out of the 6.9 million Americans who abused illicit or were dependent on illicit drugs, 4.2 million were marijuana users.

What is marijuana addiction?

Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of their life. Marijuana addiction can be described as a strong urge to continue use even though it may not be contributing optimally to daily life and may be, in fact, detrimental to everyday life. Addiction to marijuana can also be categorized as the uncontrollable need or desire to continue to use the drug, even though the person may wish to discontinue use because of tolerance, dependency, and withdrawal effects.

Signs of marijuana addiction:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Loss of control over marijuana use and failure when trying to quit
  • Devoting majority of time to acquire or use marijuana
  • Using to relax or escape reality
  • Associating with social groups that condone use of marijuana and isolating/withdrawing from people that condemn use
  • Diminished sense of responsibilities (such as school or work)
  • Continued use despite problems with law enforcement and legal issues

What is relapse?

When a person is recovering from marijuana addiction but is unable to maintain long-term or permanent abstinence from the drug, this is called a relapse. Recovering abusers and addicts have risks for relapsing to their use of marijuana due to a variety of factors: on a chemical level, marijuana addicts’ brains have grown chemically accustomed for normal functioning while the drug is present; and, on a psychological level, marijuana addicts may feel stronger emotions and be unable to cope with the perceived stress that is associated while off the drug. Unfortunately, for all addiction psychotherapies, relapse rates remain high. A study published in 2003 by psychologist Brent A. Moore and his colleagues, revealed that 41 percent of successfully treated marijuana addicts had relapsed within the first six months.

Tips for preventing a marijuana relapse:

  • Discard paraphernalia associated with marijuana
  • Create new routines which don’t involve or is associated to marijuana
  • Make/find supportive friends that help combat marijuana addiction
  • Find new pleasures and hobbies in life
  • Go to meetings for marijuana addiction

Addiction to marijuana may not be as damaging when compared to addiction to other drugs, but it can still be debilitating. Marijuana addiction may signify a deep underlying issue that can only be resolved once the addiction to marijuana is isolated and treated. If you want to learn more about different types of addiction, please visit: If you want to understand how marijuana addiction can be linked to other forms of addiction and mental disorders, please watch:

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