There are a lot of competing perspectives on marijuana and whether it is truly addictive. So is it? A drug is considered addictive if it makes you dependent on it. In other words, you get withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it. You also crave an addictive drug – as in that’s all you really want – even when it isn’t around. This could be said for marijuana addiction.
First off, anything that you are using habitually to change your mood, you will probably have a craving for. Whether or not marijuana is addictive is and will always be a controversial topic in the addiction research and healthcare communities.
It shouldn’t be surprising that more people are talking about marijuana addiction. Marijuana in medical and recreational forms are becoming legal in more and more states. A possible concern for recreational users of marijuana is whether or not they will become addicted. But can they, realistically speaking?
It is Mind-Altering
The hallucinogenic substance in marijuana that causes the effects is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. When a person smokes pot, the chemical THC passes from the lungs directly into the bloodstream, where it flows straight to the brain. The absorption process is a slow one compared to other drugs, and it often takes anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours before the smoker feels the effects of pot. The weed high will commence faster if a person ingests the drug rather than smoking it. Marijuana actives specific nerve receptors in the brain. This produces symptoms such as mood swings, impaired movement, and difficulty thinking. It also produces a distorted sense of time, and impaired memory, as well as altered sight and other senses.
Physical Dependency Can Occur with Marijuana Addiction
Smokers eventually build up a tolerance to marijuana, effectively meaning they need to consume more pot to experience the same effects. If continued, this can lead to physical dependence. In other words, when a person’s body adjusts to having the chemical THC and it is removed, withdrawal may be observed. Once the human body is physically and mentally dependent on marijuana, it’s only then can we truly say there is a marijuana addiction. It is highly possible a user might feel they need the drug in order to continue living. They will carry on using the drug despite experiencing adverse effects.
It Can Be a Gateway Drug
No one knows exactly how many stoners become full-fledged addicts, but the drug’s low dependence rate suggests there are very few cannabis addicts in this country. However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 4 million American adults battled a marijuana use disorder in 2014. They also report that in 2010, marijuana use disorders accounted for 18 percent and the third highest number of treatment admissions to substance abuse programs. You will see marijuana users in addiction rehab centers from time to time. In fact, they make up one of the fastest-growing groups of people to seek help for drug abuse.
Marijuana Can Be Psychologically Addictive
It’s fairly well-established that marijuana is not as physically addictive as other hard drugs. However there’s evidence to support that it is psychologically addictive. Marijuana addiction and use causes negative side effects. Plus, it is still illegal on a federal level. And like any substance, it has the power to control people’s lives. In fact, there are many marijuana users who wish they had never started using, and are struggling to get clean. Despite the stigma of drugs, it’s surprisingly hard to find drug rehab programs tailored specifically for marijuana addiction, and many recovering addicts are suffering as a result.
The Other Side
On the other hand, there are some aspects about marijuana that make its addictive nature questionable:
Relatively painless withdrawal- The large majority of people who try marijuana do primarily as an experiment and for socializing, never becoming addicted. Unlike other substances, pot has limited severe withdrawal symptoms. Most users can quit quite easily. If present, withdrawal symptoms may include: depression, anxiety, nausea, sleep disorders and GI problems.
Minor potency- Compared to other substances, marijuana is not very addicting. It is estimated that over 30% of tobacco smokers will become addicted. About 17% of cocaine users will become addicted, along with 15% of alcohol users and 23% of heroin users becoming addicted. Cocaine and heroin are more physically detrimental to one’s health when compared to marijuana, and nicotine in cigarettes is considerably more addictive. It is usually much easier to quit smoking pot than it is to quit smoking tobacco.
Controllable high- Despite the varying amounts of THC in different strains of marijuana, experienced stoners are able to control their high. For instance, a study took place in which proficient smokers were given joints with either 1% or 4% levels of THC. The test subjects were oblivious to the conditions of the experiment, so they didn’t know the exact THC levels of their joint. Subconsciously the smokers adjusted their inhaling to maintain the same level of high. They did this by taking longer draws on the weaker joint and breathing in more clean air with the other. The study claims that regular users know how to inhale in a way that regulates THC content.
The Verdict on Marijuana Addiction
So, is marijuana addictive? To most people, the answer is not so simple. Roughly 1 in 10 recreational users will develop problems severe enough to affect their personal and professional relationships. Many more come to depend on smoking marijuana for relaxation and socializing. This will be problematic if they don’t learn how to manage their intake and come to rely on marijuana every day.
One thing is for certain: It is not good to become dependent on any substance. Even though marijuana produces minor withdrawal symptoms, it does not mean that it is not addictive. Depending on anything in order to experience euphoria, loosen up, or even fall asleep every night is not recommended. Psychological and mental dependency cannot always be measured. Marijuana addiction is possible, just like with any other substance. If you or a loved one is addicted to marijuana, seek help. You deserve to be free.