Marijuana Addiction – Debate Rages – Truth On Both Sides

Marijuana addiction is a huge issue. Even before the current legalization of weed in 10 states, marijuana had the second most admissions to rehab, right behind alcohol.

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, seeds, and stem of the hemp plant, whose scientific name is Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a hallucinogen meaning it distorts how the user’s mind perceives the world. THC is the chemical present in cannabis that creates this effect.

  • Long-term use and abuse of marijuana can lead to dependency and addiction.

It is a chronic disease that the individual has trouble controlling their marijuana use, and they cannot stop using even with the negative consequences it has. An addicted individual will display compulsive drug-seeking activities. 

Marijuana is often smoked like a cigarette (joint) or in a pipe. The other way of using it is by ingesting either by brewing tea or mixing it with food. Sometimes the joint is usually laced with other more potent drugs such as cocaine and PCP. When the user smokes, they feel the effect within minutes. Immediate sensations include; increased heart rate, lessened coordination and balance, and an unreal state of mind. The side effects of weed usually peak after 30 minutes. The results typically last two or three hours, but they could take longer. It all depends on how much the user took.

  • According to a survey done in high schools, it is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. More than 1 in every 3 Americans has tried using marijuana at least once in their lives. 9% of marijuana users develop an addiction with time.

Addiction Defined

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. This definition applies regardless of whether the addiction is to a drug or an activity. Applying this definition to marijuana, we can diagnose whether marijuana use by an individual reaches the addiction threshold.

Signs & Symptoms Tolerance

It is the first evidence of dependency. When one used it for the first time, a few puffs are enough to feel the effects. After prolonged use, it takes more breaths for you to feel the same impact. If one does not use the drug but starts experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, loss of appetite, and insomnia, it means that addiction has set in.

Withdrawal symptoms often signify marijuana tolerance – Use crosses the line to addiction when the body or brain rewards that use. Tolerance means that the body is rewarding excessive use of the drug. Conversely, withdrawal symptoms represent a negative response that rewards the use of the drug with a lack of side effects. This lesser feeling becomes something the addict anticipates.

Loss of Control

If the user wishes to cut back on the number of times they use and then go against their intentions and smoke anyway is a sign that they are already addicted. If they decide to cut down, they always fail.

Spend Time and Money Getting High

If one is taking time from previously critical activities to get high, this shows an addiction process.


Suppose smoking weed has made the user stop taking care of their daily responsibilities such as going to school. And they show less productivity; it is a sign of deeper problems.

Interferes With Other Activities

Frequent and heavy marijuana use interferes with other activities. This sign represents the part of the definition that refers to addiction as a “primary and chronic” disease. The use of marijuana is taking priority over other, more important activities. You can’t remember the last day when you didn’t partake of it; you have almost certainly reached the point of addiction.

Continued Use Despite Causing Problems

Using marijuana, even after it has caused significant social problems or side effects, means there is a dependency issue. This sign represents the diseased part of the definition. While most diseases are biological agents that attack your body internally, the concept of a disease is broader than that, primarily when referring to social diseases like addiction. In this case, addiction is causing damage either socially or physically, and that damage is only getting worse without some form of treatment.

Unwillingness to Quit

Marijuana dependency may cause significant life changes. Addiction may express itself in various ways, including memory impairment, social alienation, failure to fulfill responsibilities, physical altercations or accidents resulting from being high, or even severe paranoia. However, it reveals itself through an unwillingness to cease using the drug after such problems is a clear sign of addiction.

How Likely Is It Someone Will Get Addicted

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, by the time they finish high school, roughly 45% of children in the U.S. will have used marijuana at least once in their life. Surprisingly, this number barely changes for adults, meaning that nearly every adult in the U.S. who has used marijuana in their lifetime started using it while under 18.

Luckily for most marijuana users, addiction is rare. Roughly 10% of users succumb to addiction as defined medically. Overuse of the drug is joint in users, but rarely to the point that it reaches abuse.

However, just because your odds are low of getting addicted, that doesn’t mean you are in the clear. The average person has about a 10% chance of getting addicted. There is a portion of the population with a much higher probability.

There is a genetic component to addiction and identified. Users with a specific genetic profile have a much higher chance of becoming addicted to marijuana than others. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to identify the gene responsible for addiction before someone starts using marijuana. Thus, if you choose to start using marijuana, you are taking a significant risk. If you have the gene that corresponds with addiction, you are almost sure to become addicted, at which point you are at high risk for the significant side effects of the drug, including memory degradation.


When it comes to treating marijuana addiction, therapy is the cornerstone. Therapy intends to help people avoid and cope with marijuana triggers, so they do not lapse due to the temptations. Most of the individuals with an abuse problem receive outpatient treatment. Marijuana usually accounts for 67% of treatment admissions. Behavioral therapies such as motivational enhancement therapy, contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family-based therapies effectively treat marijuana addiction. Currently, no medication is an effective treatment of marijuana use disorder. Antidepressant medicines may help individuals manage the withdrawal symptoms and help avoid relapse.