NOV 09, 2018 12:42 PM PST

Is Weed Addictive?

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

A recent report in The Atlantic highlighted the "invisible" marijuana addicts among today's marijuana users. This report claims that at least 1 in 10 marijuana users are or will become addicted. The public perception of pot as not being addictive has floated around for a long time, but with new, more potent strains of marijuana out there, that notion is being challenged. While the exact number of marijuana-addicts is unknown, estimates range from 10-30% of all users. These users show typical signs of addiction as defined by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V). These signs include the inability to quit, persistent cravings, engaging in dangerous behaviors to procure the drug, and/or using to the point that it negatively impacts work or family life.

Photo source: Unsplash.com

While there is an acute withdrawal syndrome that some chronic users experience when they stop, which includes agitation, insomnia, and anxiety, this is not necessarily an indication of addiction. While these withdrawal symptoms are distressing they tend to resolve in about a week. The term "marijuana use disorder" is the official name used in psychiatry to refer to marijuana addiction. And according to the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA), about 4.0 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder in 2015.

These users tend to develop dependence on the drug first, which only means that they experience withdrawal and tolerance. However, these two physical symptoms are not enough to qualify as an addiction. Many people can become dependent on a drug (such as antidepressants) but never manifest "addiction-like" behavior (drug craving, compulsive use, inability to quit or desire to quit). Furthermore, those that do go on to develop marijuana use disorder often will have a co-occurring mood disorder. Finally, if you started smoking as an adolescent, you are seven times more likely to become addicted. 

The awareness of a "marijuana use disorder" or marijuana addiction has increased. Mark Kleinman, a professor of public health at New York University, was quoted as saying “It wasn’t obvious to me 25 years ago when 9 percent of self-reported cannabis users over the last month reported daily or near-daily use...But that number is now [something like] 40 percent.” Legalization, increased THC levels in marijuana, and a growing acceptance of marijuana as a "safe" drug may all contribute to the rising addiction rates. And make no mistake, the rates are rising. See the video below for more information.

Video Source: YouTube.com

SourcesThe Atlantic, Substance Use & Misuse, www.addiction.com, Labroots. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, www.drugabuse.gov, wagner.nyu.edu, Pew Research Center, Addiction Science & Clinical Practice

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
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