We’re not gonna beat around the bush here – anyone who says you can’t get addicted to marijuana is full of it. Granted, weed is certainly not as physically addicting as say, tobacco or painkillers, but it can be addicting nonetheless.
| “Can you get addicted to weed? Um, yes. Yes you can.”
In this article, we explain what “type” of addiction marijuana use can lead to, how it differs from other forms of addiction (namely tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs), and what you can do to minimize the chances of developing an unhealthy, addictive cannabis habit.
What is addiction, anyway?
Don’t kid yourself; addiction is certainly not just limited to the “traditional” vices like drugs, cigarettes, sex, gambling, etc.
Indeed, you can get addicted to just about anything in life. In fact, we would bet our bottom dollar that the majority of us (and especially you millennials out there) would probably qualify as being addicted to our phones, Instagram accounts, etc.
Of course, there is a pretty major distinction to be made between addictions that cause an actual physical (or chemical) dependence, and addictions that simply cause psychological/behavioral dependence.
| “A clear distinction should be made between addiction that causes physical dependence, and addiction that ‘simply’ causes a psychological dependence.”
Things like smartphones, social media, and hilarious memes fall into the latter category of “psychological” addiction. Physical dependence, on the other hand – things like getting hooked on opiates or smoking three packs of cigarettes a day – are much more dangerous and can create actual physiological effects within our bodies.
In other words, our body can become reliant on the presence of a particular substance, and serious complications (in the form of withdrawal) can occur if that substance is suddenly no longer available to us.
So what category does marijuana addiction fall into, you might be wondering? Well, let’s look at some scientific studies to try and answer that question.
Addicted to marijuana: Fact or fiction?
We hate to break it to you, but chronic and/or prolonged marijuana use can, unfortunately, lead to physical dependence. And that’s not an opinion – at least not according to researchers who accumulated 30 years of data on human clinical and animal models.
In their 2011 academic publication, which was published in Oxford University’s ILAR journal, scientists determined that:
| “…chronic exposure to [cannabis] produces physical dependence, and may contribute to drug maintenance in cannabis-dependent individuals.”
In other words, marijuana use can no doubt result in the body developing a physiological dependence on the presence of cannabinoids. This basic sentiment has been mirrored in several other studies as well, in addition to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), who claims that “one in six teens who try marijuana will get addicted to it.”
Moreover, according to a 2010 article published by Standford Medicine, the idea that cannabis can produce addiction and subsequent dependence is non-negotiable:
| “Among pharmacologists, the recognition that psychoactive drugs like marijuana can produce dependence is uncontroversial.”
So, next time Jonny Stoner tries to argue with you til his Birkenstocks fall off that weed is “totally non-addictive, bro,” you can bust out some legit data to prove him otherwise.
Marijuana addiction: Understanding the difference between ‘dependence’ and ‘addiction’
Clinically speaking, the terms “dependence” and “addiction” are distinct. As NIDA defines it, ‘dependence refers to the need to take a drug to feel “physically OK.”
However, this is distinct from ‘addiction,’ which refers to when an individual “thinks about the drug all the time … and makes [using it] a larger priority than other things in their life.”
DID YOU KNOW: According to the U.S. government, 1 out of every 6 teenagers who try marijuana will become addicted to it?
For example, an individual can become ‘dependent’ on a diabetes drug that lowers blood glucose levels (i.e. they need it to survive), but this certainly doesn’t mean that they’re ‘addicted’ to the drug in an unhealthy way.
Marijuana use disorder and marijuana withdrawal: What you need to know
If you are a chronic marijuana user and you have felt physically sick after suddenly not using cannabis for a day or two, you are addicted — and you have experienced symptoms of withdrawal.
What this means is your body has become reliant on the presence of cannabinoids (usually THC). When these compounds are suddenly not present, your body starts shouting out to you, “Hey, something isn’t right here!”
So are you addicted to marijuana? According to NIDA, symptoms of marijuana addiction can include:
- Irritability (often for no apparent reason)
- Anxiousness or feeling worried
- Restlessness / insomnia
- Feeling lethargic or sluggish during the day
- Decreased appetite (and/or weight loss)
More severe physical symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain (and/or cramping)
- Uncontrollable sweating
- Fever / Chills
- Migraines (or severe headaches)
These feelings of physical symptoms are typically a direct correspondence to cannabis dependence, and people who experience such symptoms are sometimes classified as having Marijuana Use Disorder.
| “Individuals who experience physical symptoms of cannabis withdrawal may be ‘informally’ diagnosed with a condition known as Marijuana Use Disorder.”
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Marijuana Use Disorder can progress into marijuana addiction when an individual “cannot stop using [cannabis] – even though it [may interfere] with many aspects of his or her life.”
For obvious reasons, the overall prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorder (and subsequent addiction] can be tricky to estimate. The NIH has suggested that up to 9% of people who use marijuana (even socially) will become dependent on it, and this number is believed to increase to roughly 17% among those who begin using cannabis as a teenager.
DID YOU KNOW: As many as 4 million people in the U.S. will meet the diagnostic criteria for Marijuana Use Disorder?
Moreover, it has been estimated that roughly 4 million people in the U.S. “met the diagnostic criteria” for Marijuana Use Disorder in 2015, even though only 140,000 or so willfully sought treatment for the condition.
So… Is there anything you can do to decrease the risk of becoming addicted to marijuana?
If you’re legitimately concerned about developing an addiction to marijuana, there are a few different things you can do to try and lower the risk of dependence. Here is a simple table summarizing a few techniques to pursue if you’re worried about becoming addicted, and/or developing symptoms of Marijuana Use Disorder.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO LOWER THE RISK OF MARIJUANA ADDICTION
|Immerse yourself in physical activity or hobbies||Often times, addiction is simply an underlying manifestation of some other aspect of our lives in which we are not feeling fulfilled. Millions of people around the globe have helped combat unhealthy addictive habits through rigorous exercise, or otherwise through the pursuit of a passionate hobby (like sports, cooking, hiking, etc)|
|Practice techniques that lower tolerance||Typically, individuals who become addicted to marijuana will consume an unearthly amount of weed every single day, which of course doesn’t help if you’re trying to avoid developing a physical dependence. Check out this article for tips and tricks on how to lower your cannabis tolerance level|
|Look for strains with a higher CBD:THC ratio||By now, you’ve likely heard about CBD – the natural cannabis medication that “doesn’t get you high.” In fact, CBD has actually been used on its own to help treat multiple forms of addiction and withdrawal, and it’s believed that high-CBD/low-THC marijuana strains (or even 1:1 strains) can be incredibly useful for minimizing the risk of addiction. You’re not going to get as high, of course, but it’s likely a very decent trade-off|
Final Thoughts: “Can I Get Addicted to Marijuana?”
In short, you absolutely can become addicted to marijuana, as well as develop a physical dependence (and subsequent withdrawal symptoms). In fact, cannabis addiction is likely far more prevalent than most of us realize, with most organizations estimating that up to 50% of users will develop some sort of addictive habits through frequent use.
That said, like all things in life cannabis is best used responsibly and in moderation. If you think you may be developing (or have already developed) addictive habits, try implementing one of the above techniques in order to lower your dependence levels.
And of course, if you’re having severe symptoms of withdrawal and/or addiction, be sure to get in touch with professional treatment services for Marijuana Use Disorder. You’ll be glad that you did.