This is a question that deserves a straightforward answer. Yes, it is addictive.
For some users, cannabis may just be an indulgence that is harmless, or something that they need medically to treat or manage an illness. However, for others, using cannabis can become a habit that dominates their lives and negatively affects their day-to-day function.
Let’s talk about the science of cannabis addiction. When does marijuana use become an addiction? Is Are most marijuana users addicts, too? Is addiction to cannabis the same as addiction to alcohol and hard drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine?
Marijuana Use Disorder
According to the National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use of cannabis can lead to problem use, called “marijuana use disorder,” and in severe cases, this disorder takes the form of addiction. The agency also noted that 30 per cent of marijuana users may have some level of marijuana use disorder. Moreover, those who start using weed before they turn 18 years old are a bit more likely to develop this disorder compared to adults.
The agency explained that marijuana use disorder is mostly associated with dependence, wherein a user feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking cannabis. Marijuana dependence takes place when a user’s brain adapts to huge amounts of cannabis by reducing sensitivity to and production of its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.
People who frequently used the substance and then quit often report being irritable and restless, and suffer from decreased appetite, sleep and mood difficulties, cravings, and different forms of physical discomfort, which peak in the first week after quitting.
When does it become an addiction?
According to the NIH, when one cannot stop using cannabis even if it already interferes with various aspects of his or her daily life, that is when marijuana use disorder turns into an addiction. The NIH contended, however, that it’s possible to be dependent on marijuana and not be addicted to it.
There are certain factors that make one more prone to developing a marijuana addiction. The Drug and Alcohol Dependence published a study that identified various risk factors for cannabis use disorder, which include peer pressure, drug availability, low self-esteem, low socioeconomic status, positive attitude toward the use of drug, and death of parents for kids under 15 years old.
Also, while substances such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol cause physical addiction, cannabis dependence or addiction is mainly psychological. What is the difference between the two?
Physical dependence or addiction is when your body needs a certain substance in order for it to function normally, and when you don’t get that substance, you experience severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can get so bad that some would even need hospitalization, and some even die from these.
Psychological dependence or addiction, on the other hand, is when it is mostly about your feelings and thoughts. You think you need a certain substance in order to feel normal.
Marijuana dependence or addiction is mostly psychological in a sense that when you suddenly quit or stop using the substance, you wouldn’t need hospitalization because the withdrawal symptoms are just minor, such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, decreased appetite, and cravings.
Let’s talk numbers
The NIH noted that estimates of the number of marijuana users who are addicted to the substance are controversial, partly because epidemiological studies related to substance use take dependence to mean addiction. These studies suggest that 9 per cent of marijuana users will become dependent on the substance and that this number rises to 17 per cent as it pertains to those who start using cannabis in their teens.
Narconon.org, meanwhile, mentioned that studies have shown that about one in 11 marijuana users will become addicted, and that when a young user starts smoking weed as a teenager, his or her chances of getting addicted to the substance is one in six.
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It is always best to evaluate your relationship with marijuana, or with any substance for that matter. If you suspect that you, or people you care about, have developed a dependence or addiction to cannabis and thus need help to quit the habit, you should consult with your doctor and discuss your options for treatment.