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Marijuana Addiction: Is Weed an Addiction?

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Throughout recent years, marijuana has become increasingly legalized across the US for both medical and recreational use. While this can be seen and argued as a positive step forward, there are still many risks associated with marijuana use that has yet to be studied. 

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can negatively affect physical and mental health. In marijuana addiction, even though it’s a plant and comes from nature, marijuana use disorder is a real issue and can lead to dependency issues. Despite these risks, many people continue to use marijuana without realizing the potential consequences. 

cannabis, marijuana, weed
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Marijuana Abuse Statistics

Marijuana abuse is a real and widespread problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. In 2019, 48.2 million people, or 18 percent of all Americans, had used marijuana within the same year.

In addition, 3 out of 10 people who use marijuana frequently will eventually develop an addiction, and this statistic is even higher among those who start using it before the age of 18. It’s important to note that addiction is more than just physical dependence; it’s a disorder that affects behavior and thought.

Understanding Marijuana

Marijuana is a psychoactive substance extracted from the cannabis plant. It can be consumed in various ways, including smoking, vaporizing, and eating. Marijuana is typically smoked by rolling it into a cigarette or joint. If present in food, it usually comes in the form of edibles or baked goods. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active ingredient found in cannabis and is responsible for its psychoactive effects.

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has the potential for abuse with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that an estimated 30 percent of people who consume marijuana may develop an addiction. 

Is Weed an Addiction?

Marijuana (popularly known as weed, mary jane, cannabis, or pot) can become an addiction. Weed is the second most often used mind-altering substance in the United States, after alcohol.

Some persons who become addicted to weed may need to use more of the product with higher concentrations over time to feel “high.” The more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) there is in marijuana, the more impact it may have on the brain.

leaf, nature, flora
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Can you get addicted to marijuana?

Yes. Some marijuana users develop cannabis use disorder, which means they cannot quit using marijuana even though it is ruining their health and causing them social problems.

      • People who begin using marijuana throughout their youth or adolescence and use it more regularly are more likely to develop marijuana dependence.

      • Studies suggest that 3 in 10 marijuana users suffer from cannabis use disorder.

      • According to another study, there is a 10% chance of addiction among cannabis users.

    Dangers of Teen Marijuana addiction

    According to recent studies, 30% of marijuana users may suffer from a marijuana use disorder. A marijuana use disorder is four to seven times more likely to develop in those under the age of 18 than it is in people over the age of 18.

    The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids lists the following as important considerations for addressing problematic marijuana use:

        • Wait until your child is sober before having the conversation.

        • Recognize that being hostile will not succeed. Instead, convey concerns in a non-threatening manner that shows your positive intent.

        • It will be easier to overcome or undermine the child’s denial strategies if you have proof or, at the very least, a solid grasp of the root of the concern.

        • Provide potential solutions, such as details on a rehab program that can offer professional assistance.

      What are the Causes of Marijuana addiction?

      There are a few generally accepted explanations for the causes of marijuana addiction:

      • Genetics: Young people with a family history of substance abuse or addiction are likelier to use or abuse marijuana.

      • Environmental: Young people exposed to marijuana use or abuse in their environment run a higher risk of using or abusing it themselves. The earlier this exposure happens, the higher the risk.

      • Physical: Researchers have discovered a particular receptor in the human brain that has been shown to react when marijuana is present. These receptors may deteriorate due to marijuana use or misuse, leading to symptoms that suggest marijuana addiction.

      Risk Factors of Marijuana Abuse: 

      • Pre-existing mental illness
      • Family history of drug use or abuse
      • Early exposure to marijuana use
      • Easy access to marijuana
      • Peer pressure
      • Lack of proper coping skills

      marijuana, cannabis, weed

      Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

      Addiction is a lifelong, recurring disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and usage despite overwhelming negative consequences. People addicted to marijuana may have difficulty quitting even though they want to stop using it.

      Individuals suffering from marijuana addiction may exhibit signs that point to a substance use disorder. If you’re worried that a loved one might have a marijuana addiction, look out for these potential symptoms: 

      • Spending an excessive amount of time obtaining, using, and recovering from marijuana use
      • Failing to fulfill responsibilities at home, work, or school due to marijuana use
      • Continuing to use marijuana despite social or interpersonal problems caused by the drug
      • Developing a tolerance, meaning more marijuana is needed to achieve the desired effect
      • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when marijuana use stops

      Cannabis Use Disorder

      Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is the term used for marijuana use that is harmful to a person’s life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM 5, made CUD a part of its list of diagnoses. 

      The formal diagnostic criteria of cannabis use disorder are indicated by at least two of the following signs or symptoms that appear within a year:

      • Difficulty controlling or reducing cannabis consumption
      • Using cannabis despite having health problems or psychological issues
      • Having cannabis cravings
      • Tolerance to marijuana
      • Using cannabis while having social or relationship problems
      • Cannabis consumption causes problems in jobs, school, and home
      • Abandoning recreational activities or cutting back on them in favor of cannabis use
      • Investing much time in cannabis usage
      • Using more marijuana than intended
      • Using marijuana in high-risk situations
      • Withdrawal symptoms upon quitting cannabis

      Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

      When someone is addicted to marijuana, they may experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms once they stop using it. Withdrawal occurs when someone is dependent on a drug, and their body has to adjust to functioning without it. 

      Common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:

      • Anxiety or restlessness  
      • Depression 
      • Irritability or anger 
      • Decreased appetite 
      • Insomnia 
      • Physical symptoms such as tremors, sweating, and chills 
      • Cravings for marijuana

      Marijuana Risks & Effects

      Long-term marijuana use can result in a variety of mental and physical health issues, including respiratory problems, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, cognitive deficits, and a higher risk of developing certain cancers. 

      It is also important to note that marijuana use can impede a person’s driving ability and increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore, marijuana use has been linked to poorer academic performance and the development of other substance use disorders. 

      Over the past three decades, marijuana potency has progressively increased. In the early 1990s, the average THC concentration in marijuana samples seized was less than 4%; in 2018, it was more than 15%. In marijuana concentrates, the THC levels may be substantially higher. Concerns are raised that marijuana consumption now may have worse effects than it did in the past decade due to the increasing potency of marijuana and the use of high-THC levels.

      Marijuana & Co-occurring Disorders

      Marijuana addiction can be especially difficult to manage if an individual is struggling with a mental health disorder. Co-occurring disorders, or comorbidities, are common in individuals who suffer from addiction and can include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, or bipolar disorder.

      Individuals struggling with addiction and mental disorders may require specialized treatment and mental health services administration to address their needs. Integrated treatment combines addiction and mental health treatment and can vastly improve an individual’s chances of recovery. 

      Marijuana Addiction Treatment

      While marijuana addiction can be a serious health concern, effective and full recovery is possible with the right approach. Treatment for marijuana addiction typically includes counseling, behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and support groups. 

      Counseling can help individuals to understand the underlying cause of their addiction and develop healthy coping skills for managing stress and cravings. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help individuals learn how to identify triggers and manage their reactions more effectively. At the same time, support groups provide an invaluable source of social support and motivation. 

      Knowing marijuana and its associated risks is essential in preventing substance abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with marijuana addiction, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. With the proper treatment and support, it is possible to break free from marijuana addiction and reclaim one’s life. 

      hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease
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      Frequently Asked Questions On Marijuana Addiction

      Yes. It is entirely possible to overcome marijuana addiction despite a few challenging aspects. Professional drug and alcohol treatment has assisted many individuals in managing withdrawal symptoms and recovering from marijuana use disorders.

      People who routinely and often use marijuana and then try to stop it may experience withdrawal symptoms. The cannabis withdrawal syndrome might make quitting marijuana more challenging, but recovery is possible even in severe cases. Recovery depends on each individual, how much marijuana they use, and how long they have been using it. Most acute withdrawal symptoms resolve within 3 to 5 weeks.

      Marijuana addiction treatment options are comparable to treatment programs for alcohol and other drug addiction. Evidence-based treatments, such as behavioral and motivational enhancement therapy, are successful treatment options. Treatment also depends on the individual’s case, co-occurring disorders, and treatment needs.

      According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is a link between family support and a decreased likelihood of relapse.

      It is essential for families to be involved at every stage of the healing process for the patient to feel safe, loved, supported, and cared for.

      There is not much evidence that consuming marijuana makes you more likely to abuse other drugs.

      The notion that using marijuana serves as a “gateway drug” or a stepping stone to using other harder drugs like cocaine or heroin has generated debate among researchers until today. Further research is needed to show the link between marijuana use and other forms of substance abuse.

      Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the main psychoactive component in marijuana. It activates receptors in your brain known as endocannabinoid receptors. Cannabis and other addictive substances can alter the neural pathways in your brain when used frequently. Your sensitivity to marijuana’s chemical components then decreases over time. 

      Thereafter, cannabinoid receptors, which your body naturally makes, may decrease production. To feel “normal,” you might need to take more of the drug or experience stress when you stop.

      When attempting to stop using marijuana, you have two main options: cutting back gradually or stopping abruptly. Once you’ve chosen to stop using marijuana, you first must consider how to manage withdrawal and prevent relapse. While some people might have an easier time stopping marijuana than others, your experience may vary depending on whether you’ve grown dependent or addicted to it.

      You may also need professional help if you cannot quit marijuana alone after a few attempts or lack a support group.

      If you wish to quit using marijuana, remember that you don’t have to do it yourself. Your chance of successfully quitting marijuana might improve if you seek assistance from your doctor or therapist. In the early stages of your recovery from marijuana addiction, your healthcare provider can assist you in getting ready for your recovery journey and offer support when things get tough.

      For comprehensive treatment plans, start by discussing your treatment choices with your doctor or a mental health provider.

      Yes, it’s possible to recover from chronic use of marijuana. Most long-term effects of chronic marijuana use are reversible and tend to improve within several weeks after discontinuing marijuana use. However, for some people, particularly chronic users who began using marijuana in adolescence, the negative effects can be long-lasting.

      The majority of people who seek treatment for marijuana addiction are those who have used the drug every day for years and have developed psychological dependence. These individuals have repeatedly attempted to stop using marijuana on their own but failed. If this describes you, speak with a treatment professional to discuss your situation and plan your options.

      Common signs and symptoms of cannabis use disorder include the following physical or psychological problems:

      • Bloodshot eyes
      • Feeling “high” or euphoric
      • Increased appetite
      • Weight gain
      • Lack of motivation
      • Impaired coordination
      • Nervous or paranoid behavior
      • Memory impairment
      • Slowed reaction time
      • Impaired judgment
      • Dry mouth
      • Relaxed state/sleepiness
      • Anxiety
      • Distorted perception

      Choosing to seek marijuana addiction treatment can be challenging, especially when some people believe it is unachievable. Many people who desire to overcome an addiction, nevertheless, cannot accomplish so on their own. However, recovery from marijuana addiction is possible. You will need the appropriate treatment plan so you can overcome your addiction. One of the most common methods for people to treat marijuana addiction is by joining a support group, such as Marijuana Anonymous (MA).

      Some people choose inpatient care to jump-start their recovery because they understand that the one-on-one care and support will help them keep their recovery journey. An inpatient treatment facility may also assist people in avoiding being near triggers or environments where it seems difficult to quit smoking marijuana. The length of inpatient rehabilitation is 30 to 90 days.


      To explore your options for rehab, you may get in touch with us.

      1. Data and Statistics. (n.d.).

      2. S. Hasin et al., “Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001–2002 and 2012–2013,” JAMA Psychiatry, vol. 72, no. 12, pp. 1235–1242, 2015.

      3. Is marijuana addictive? (2021, April 13). National Institute on Drug Abuse.

      4. National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2020). What is the scope of cannabis (marijuana) use in the United States?.

      5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.).  Addiction (Marijuana or Cannabis Use Disorder).

      6. Zehra, A., Burns, J., Liu, C. K., Manza, P., Wiers, C. E., Volkow, N. D., & Wang, G. J. (2018). Cannabis Addiction and the Brain: a Review. Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology : the official journal of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology, 13(4), 438–452.

      7. Driving | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC. (n.d.).

      8. Arria, A. M., Caldeira, K. M., Bugbee, B. A., Vincent, K. B., & O’Grady, K. E. (2015). The academic consequences of marijuana use during college. Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, 29(3), 564–575.

      9. Zehra, A., Burns, J., Liu, C. K., Manza, P., Wiers, C. E., Volkow, N. D., & Wang, G. J. (2018). Cannabis Addiction and the Brain: a Review. Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology : the official journal of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology, 13(4), 438–452.

      10. Dorard, G., Berthoz, S., Phan, O., Corcos, M., & Bungener, C. (2008). Affect dysregulation in cannabis abusers. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 17(5), 274-282.

      11. Connor, J. P., Stjepanović, D., Le Foll, B., Hoch, E., Budney, A. J., & Hall, W. D. (2021). Cannabis use and cannabis use disorder. Nature reviews. Disease primers, 7(1), 16.


      Edited by: David Beasley

      David Beasley - Design for Recovery

      David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

      Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

      Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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