Can You Get Addicted to Marijuana?

For decades, marijuana has been one of the most commonly used illegal substances in the United States. In recent years, changes to state laws have expanded legal access to this drug. However, just because a drug is legal, that does not mean it is harmless. So, can you get addicted to marijuana? The answer to this questions may surprise you.

What is Marijuana?

The substance that is commonly referred to as marijuana is composed of dried flowers from the cannabis sativa plant. The primary psychoactive element in marijuana is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The cannabis sativa plant also contains more than 100 other compounds that are similar to THC. These substances are known as cannabinoids. 

THC and other cannabinoids are responsible for the effects that a person experiences when they use marijuana. Common effects of marijuana use include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Impaired coordination
  • Distorted perception of time
  • Diminished inhibitions
  • Memory problems
  • Pain reduction
  • Increased appetite

Some people who use marijuana also report feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and depression.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Contrary to what some people claim, you can get addicted to marijuana.

The risk of developing marijuana addiction is lower than the risk of becoming addicted to certain other drugs, such as opioids. But this does not mean that marijuana use is a risk-free endeavor. The longer a person continues to use marijuana, the greater the likelihood becomes that they will develop marijuana addiction.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 10 percent of people who use marijuana become addicted to the drug. Among people who begin using marijuana before age 18, SAMHSA reports, the rate of addiction is about 17 percent.

In 2015, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that about 4 million Americans met the clinical criteria for marijuana addiction. 

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) uses the term “cannabis use disorder” to describe marijuana addiction. According to the DSM-5, signs of marijuana addiction include:

  • Using larger than intended amounts of marijuana 
  • Using marijuana for a longer amount of time than intended
  • Spending considerable time acquiring marijuana, using it, or recovering from the use of the drug
  • Having powerful urges to use marijuana
  • Failing to meet personal, academic, or professional responsibilities due to marijuana use
  • Continuing to use marijuana even after experiencing harm or other problems due to previous use
  • Using marijuana at times when it is clearly hazardous to do so (such as when driving a car)

Two other significant signs of marijuana addiction are tolerance and withdrawal. 

  • Tolerance means a person needs to use larger amounts of the drug to achieve the effects they used to experience through minimal use. 
  • Withdrawal means developing physical or psychological pain when a person stops or reduces their marijuana use.

A person who exhibits the signs above may be addicted to marijuana. If a person who has developed this disorder doesn’t get appropriate help, they may be at risk for many long-term negative effects.

Effects of Long-Term Marijuana Use

Long-term marijuana use can lead to several negative effects, including:

  • Substandard performance in school or at work
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to get and keep a job
  • Financial difficulties
  • Conflicts with family members and friends
  • Physical injuries due to impaired judgement and coordination
  • Legal problems, including being arrested, fined, and jailed
  • Development or worsening of certain mental health symptoms
  • Cognitive deficiencies

When a person enters treatment for marijuana addiction, they reduce their risk for continued harm. During treatment, they can also begin to repair any damage that marijuana abuse has caused in their life. 

Symptoms and Timeline of Marijuana Withdrawal

As mentioned earlier on this page, withdrawal is a common sign of addiction, also known as substance use disorder

When a person becomes addicted to marijuana or any other substance, their body adapts to the presence of the drug. However, when a person can’t acquire the drug, or when they try to stop using it, their body may react with a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can include physical and psychological distress.

Possible signs of marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms usually begin to appear within 24 to 72 hours after a person has stopped using the substance. The symptoms typically reach peak intensity within five to seven days, then gradually subside over the next week or two. The DSM-5 notes that sleep difficulties due to marijuana withdrawal may persist for a month or longer. The development of withdrawal symptoms is one of the reasons why professional treatment for marijuana addiction can be so beneficial. 

When a person tries to stop using the drug on their own, the distress of withdrawal can quickly push them back into active marijuana abuse. However, when a person enters a treatment program, they will be in a safe and closely supervised environment. They won’t have access to marijuana, and they will be able to receive focused support to help them manage their cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.

Find Treatment for Marijuana Addiction in Philadelphia, PA

If marijuana addiction has disrupted your life or the life of someone you care about, please know that effective treatment is available. WAVE Treatment Centers provides personalized care for adults who have become addicted to marijuana and other substances. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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