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Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana is addictive. Researchers say about 30 percent of people who use the drug have some degree of cannabis use disorder (CUD).

Struggling with Marijuana Addiction? Get Help Now

Is marijuana addictive? For some people, it can be. Per the 2021 Treatment Episode Data Set, 129,343 people enrolled in treatment programs in the United States due to their marijuana use. This represents close to 9% of all admissions to these programs.

Continued use despite difficulties characterizes a cannabis use disorder (CUD). If you use marijuana, the problems may develop so slowly that you don’t notice them until the disorder is well-developed.

But if you have a cannabis use disorder, treatment can help. Your team can use medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, and therapy can help you stay abstinent despite life’s challenges.

What Is a Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD)?

A CUD moves on two planes: physical and mental. You could have just one set of symptoms now, but the others could develop if you don’t stop using.

Cannabis Dependence

Regular marijuana use changes your brain cells. You produce smaller amounts of natural mood-boosting chemicals, and you need a hit of marijuana to avoid unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and symptoms.

If you try to quit marijuana, you may feel the following:

  • Irritable
  • Unable to sleep
  • Restless
  • Physically ill (nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms appear)

You may also feel a deep craving for marijuana as your cells call out for the substance.

Cannabis Addiction

Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose issues like cannabis use disorder. Understanding those diagnostic rules could help you determine how serious your drug use has become.

Per the DSM-5, CUD is a problematic pattern of marijuana use that leads to significant impairment or distress. People with CUD have at least two of the following signs appearing within 12 months:

  • Using more cannabis than intended
  • Inability to cut down or control cannabis use
  • Spending a significant amount of time using cannabis, resulting in a failure to fulfill obligations at work, home, or school
  • Continued use, even though it causes repeated social or interpersonal problems
  • Lack of social, occupational, or recreational activities due to cannabis use
  • Use of cannabis in situations where it’s hazardous to do so
  • Continued use even though it’s clear the drug is causing physical or psychological problems
  • Tolerance for the drug
  • Withdrawal when someone tries to quit

While anyone can develop CUD, researchers say the issue is slightly more common among specific demographic groups. In 2021, researchers conducted a survey of 387,157 adults living in 21 states. They found that high-frequency cannabis use was more common among Black and Native American individuals and those with low educational attainment.

In the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers found that the percentage of people with marijuana use disorder was highest among multiracial people (12.6%) than among Black people (8%), white people (6.4%), or Asian people (3.3%).

CUD Signs You Should Know

The number of people with CUD is rising. In 2019, researchers published a study examining cannabis addiction rates between 2008 and 2016. They found that the number of people ages 12 to 17 reporting CUD increased from 2.18% to 2.72%. Understanding the signs and symptoms can ensure you get help when you need it.

If you have a CUD, you may lose control of the following in your life:

  • Marijuana use: You use more than you intended to. You want to stop, but you can’t.
  • Time: You stop going to work or school so you can use marijuana. Your performance in many areas of life suffers.
  • Willpower: You feel deep cravings for marijuana. You keep using the drug, even though you know it causes problems. You even use the drug in risky situations, such as while you’re driving.
  • Health: You feel ill when you try to stop using marijuana.

A CUD develops slowly. Some people feel like they woke up one day and realized their lives were off track. And they may not know how or why it happened. By the time you spot signs of addiction, you might have years of habits to break.

Problems Linked to Marijuana Addiction

An ongoing addiction can destroy your personal life. As you get rid of hobbies, friends, employment, and anything that doesn’t support your marijuana use, you’re left feeling incredibly isolated. Ongoing use can harm your physical health too.

Continued cannabis use can hurt the following:

You may have problems that don’t appear on this list. Your experience with drug use is unique, and the problems you face depend on your health, circumstances, and more. But know that anyone that persists in drug use will face physical and mental health problems.

Marijuana Addiction Is Treatable

A longstanding marijuana habit is hard to break without help. You may feel too ill, too weak, or too frightened to tackle the problem alone. But with the right people around you, recovery is possible.

No medications are approved for the treatment of cannabis use disorder. A pill, shot, or prescription can’t make the issue go away. But your doctor can use proven therapy techniques to help you come to grips with past decisions and build a healthier future.

People seeking help for CUD have tried to quit six times (on average). Many of them tried to quit at home without support.

Each time you try to quit and fail, you may grow more convinced that recovery isn’t possible for you. But this isn’t true.

A structured addiction treatment program is critical for you. In this setting, you can get skilled, trained, professional help for your addiction.

Can You Prevent a Cannabis Use Disorder?

The most effective way to avoid a CUD is to avoid marijuana use. Don’t smoke weed, don’t take cannabis products, and don’t stay in a room where others are using marijuana.

If you use marijuana now, look for ways to quit. Set aside one day per week, and dedicate it to sobriety. Fill that day with the things you did before marijuana took over your life.

Head out on that hike, meet up with friends, and pet your dog. Keep notes about how you feel. You might find that quitting makes you happier.

If you try to quit for one day and discover you can’t, look for treatment options. It’s hard to admit that an addiction is present, but with help, you can treat the disease before problems worsen. There’s no shame in asking for the help you need.

Updated April 26, 2024
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