Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, many people have the same question: Is marijuana addictive? The answer is yes, it can be. However, that doesn’t mean everyone who uses the substance will become addicted.
Most people who use marijuana do not become addicted to weed. They do not lose control of its use; they generally use the amount they want to use and control when they want to use it. When they use marijuana, they get the exact results they expect and intend to get.
However, some who use marijuana do develop the symptoms of an actual addiction after chronic marijuana use.1
Is Marijuana Addictive?
While most people who use marijuana don’t develop an addiction, this doesn’t mean that it never happens. Some who use marijuana will exhibit many of the behaviors that are commonly associated with addiction.
Cannabis use disorder, or marijuana use disorder, is a condition resulting from chronic cannabis use. It is defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as being a result of either dependence or abuse of marijuana.
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Someone who becomes addicted or dependent upon marijuana will likely display some of the classic behavioral symptoms of addiction, which include
- They will begin to need increasingly larger amounts.
- They will spend more time thinking about using.
- Substance use will begin to take a central role in their life.
- They will spend more time and money acquiring more marijuana.
- They will become irritable or agitated if they run out.
- As negative consequences mount, they will continue to use.
- They will deny claims from those close to them that they have changed.
Two of the most common signs of cannabis use disorder are physical dependence and withdrawal.
Most experts agree that dependence on a substance is accompanied by a build-up of tolerance to that substance, requiring increasingly larger amounts to get the same effects, and leading to withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using the substance. Most marijuana smokers experience neither tolerance nor withdrawal.
Most early research into marijuana addiction revealed that marijuana use rarely produced tolerance and withdrawal. But the marijuana that is available today is more powerful than the marijuana of the 1960s, containing higher levels of the active ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component in weed.5
In addition, it has been found that marijuana dependence may affect your ability to respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which allows us to feel pleasure. In one study, those who had marijuana dependence had fewer positive emotions, higher stress levels, and increased irritability.6
Today’s research shows that tolerance does develop to THC and that withdrawal symptoms do occur in some people. Studies of those who chronically use and then quit marijuana show that they experience these withdrawal symptoms:7
- Anxiety and insomnia
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive salivation
- Decreased pulse
- Increased mood swings
- Increase in aggressive behavior
Even if not physically or chemically dependent on marijuana, some people will develop a psychological dependence upon the drug. This often persists despite a person knowing they have a dependence or wanting to quit