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Is Marijuana Addictive? | Marijuana Use Disorder & The Risk For Addiction

Published on April 15, 2021
Is Marijuana Addictive? | Marijuana Use Disorder & The Risk For Addiction

The most popular illicit drug in the United States, marijuana is a mix of dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds from the cannabis plant. 

Due to the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in various states, many people assume the drug isn’t addictive. However, that’s not necessarily true.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Sometimes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 30% of people who use marijuana experience some level of marijuana addiction (also known as marijuana use disorder, cannabis use disorder, or cannabis addiction). 

This disease makes you feel unable to control your drug use despite negative consequences (such as damaged relationships or poor work performance).

Marijuana addiction can also cause problems with memory, attention, and learning. In addition, it may cause you to seek out more intense highs from more dangerous drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.

What Causes Marijuana Addiction?

Marijuana contains compounds called cannabinoids. The cannabinoid that causes a marijuana high (a feeling of euphoria and relaxation) is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

When THC enters your body, it interacts with cannabinoid receptors and impacts your movements, feelings, reactions, and other important functions. 

Your body naturally produces neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that are similar to cannabinoids. Known as endocannabinoids, they interact with the same receptors as cannabinoids to influence how you move, feel, and react.

If you use marijuana regularly, your body may start to produce fewer endocannabinoids and rely on cannabinoids, especially THC, to function normally. This is called marijuana dependence.

Marijuana Dependence 

When you’re dependent on marijuana and you stop using it, you may experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • loss of appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • nausea and vomiting 
  • intense cravings for marijuana

Dependence is usually a sign of marijuana addiction. 

Other signs of marijuana addiction include:

  • frequently experiencing side effects of marijuana, such as dry mouth, paranoia, and increased appetite 
  • marijuana tolerance, which means you need increasingly larger amounts of the drug to feel the desired effects
  • withdrawing from friends and family to spend more time getting and using marijuana
  • neglecting work or school to spend more time getting and using marijuana 

Who’s At Risk Of Marijuana Addiction?

You face a higher risk of marijuana dependence and addiction if you start using the drug as a teenager or young adult. 

In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that people who started using marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to become addicted than people who started using the drug later in life. 

You’re also more likely to become addicted if you use the drug every day or to self-medicate a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia

While the drug may provide temporary relief for your symptoms, you’ll likely need higher and more frequent doses to maintain that relief, leading to tolerance and dependence. 

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

If you or a loved one struggles with marijuana addiction, it’s important to seek help at a drug addiction treatment center. 

These centers offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs to help you safely recover from your addiction. Services include:

  • medical detox, where a team of health care professionals will help you manage your withdrawal symptoms as you get the drug out of your system
  • peer support groups, where you can connect with other people who are recovering from substance abuse and addiction
  • mental health counseling, where you can identify and treat underlying issues that contributed to your use of the drug 
  • wellness activities like meditation and journaling to help you become more mindful and manage cravings

To learn more about treatment options for marijuana abuse and addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today. 

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Marijuana: How Can It Affect Your Health?
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Is marijuana addictive?
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness
National Library of Medicine - Marijuana
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Know the Risks of Marijuana

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