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Is Marijuana Addictive?

It's Rare, But Marijuana Addiction Can Happen

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Updated May 16, 2014

Is Marijuana Addictive?
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The majority of pot smokers do not develop a marijuana addiction, but some smokers do develop all the symptoms of an actual addiction after chronic marijuana use.

Most marijuana users never come close to being addicted to weed. They do not lose control of its use; they generally use the amount they want to use and when they want to use it. When they use marijuana, they get the exact results they expect and intend to get.

But Marijuana Addiction Does Happen

The fact that most users never develop an addiction doesn't mean that it never happens. Some marijuana users will exhibit all the classic behaviors of someone who has an addiction.

There is a difference between marijuana abuse and marijuana dependence. Marijuana abuse occurs when someone continues to use the drug despite negative consequences, such as losing a job, poor academic performance or getting arrested. If you continue to smoke marijuana in spite of continued negative consequences, by definition you are a substance abuser.

Classic Addictive Behavior

Someone who becomes addicted or dependent upon marijuana is also an abuser, but will also display some of the classic addictive behavior symptoms:

  • Will begin to lose control, needing increasing larger amounts.

  • Will spend more time thinking about using.

  • Will deny claims from those close to him that he has changed.

  • Substance use will begin to take a central role in life.

  • Will spend more time and money acquiring more marijuana.

  • Will become irritable or agitated if they run out of pot.

  • As negative consequences mount, they will continue to use.

If not physically or chemically addicted to marijuana, some users will at the very least develop a psychological dependence upon the drug.

Physical Dependence on Marijuana

Most experts agree that dependence to a substance is accompanied by a build up of tolerance to that substance, requiring increasing larger amounts, and withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using the substance. Most marijuana smokers do not experience either tolerance or 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 THC.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Today's research shows that tolerance does develop to THC and that withdrawal symptoms do occur in some users. Studies of chronic marijuana users who quit smoking show that some experience these withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety and insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive salivation
  • Decreased pulse
  • Irritability
  • Increased mood swings
  • Increase in aggressive behavior

Researchers believe that because today's pot is much more potent it makes it more likely to develop true addiction in some users.

Treatment for Marijuana Increasing

Whether marijuana has become more addictive or not, the number of people seeking treatment for marijuana abuse has increased significantly. According to studies, the number of children and teenagers in treatment for marijuana dependence and abuse has increased 142% since 1992.

As with most substances of abuse, people who abuse marijuana usually decide to seek help when their use of the drug becomes painful due to the increasing negative consequences. Many who seek treatment for marijuana do so due to pressure from family, friends, schools, employers or the criminal justice system.

How about you? Has smoking weed become a problem in your life? Take this quiz to find out.

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana: Facts for Teens." Accessed April 2009.

University of Wisconsin Health Services. "Marijuana: Addiction and Other Issues." 5 April 2006.

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