Is Weed Addictive? Marijuana Facts, Symptoms and Treatments

When people think of drug dependence and relapse, they are much more likely to think about harmful drugs such as heroin or cocaine rather than marijuana, but is weed addictive? Nowadays marijuana legalisation is on the rise, and with more people using the drug, there are more concerns about its potential health effects. Among those health effects, a large concern that surrounds marijuana is addiction. Even though addiction is a scary word to think about, it is a public health concern that is associated with many drugs and substances.

Studies regarding weed addiction

A study released in the Journal of Addiction Medicine has reported that marijuana can in fact be addictive. The study included 127 adolescent outpatients who were seeking help for their substance abuse, with the majority of them receiving treatment for marijuana. Out of those who use marijuana, 84 per cent of them qualified as having ‘marijuana dependence’, which the researchers described as increased tolerance of marijuana, increased use of marijuana and unsuccessful attempts to stop using the drug.

40 per cent of those adolescents also experienced withdrawal symptoms when they stopped, and were also more likely to have issues at school, work or in their relationships. The withdrawal symptoms of marijuana appear to be similar to other drugs and include irritability, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and depression. The Institute of Medicine’s report from 1999 also found signs of weed dependence in around 9 per cent of users. Other studies in the past have also found psychological and physical symptoms of withdrawal in people and animals.

So what is marijuana addiction?

Many people are under the assumption that weed is not addictive, or that it is only psychologically addictive. People often consider ‘harder’ drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, when they talk about drug addiction, and picture dramatic withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and shaking. While ceasing marijuana use does not have such severe symptoms, and withdrawal does not have lethal consequences, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) advises that tolerance and withdrawal symptoms suggest physical addiction, regardless of their severity.

If marijuana tolerance and withdrawal symptoms occur within a period of twelve months, then drug use is certainly an issue. Those who are urged to use marijuana to feel like themselves, and continue to use it regardless of its impacts on relationship, school or work are likely to be dependent. Some people become tolerant to weed, which means that they need even more to reach the same high.

What are the symptoms and signs of marijuana addiction?

Some habitual marijuana users cannot stop using it even if it has negative impacts on their life. Those who experience at least two of the following symptoms within a twelve-month period could be at risk of marijuana addiction:

  • Using more marijuana for longer periods of time
  • Wanting to cease or cut back on use but are unable to
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining weed
  • Having strong cravings and urge to use
  • Affects on their relationships
  • Continuing to use weed even if they are in dangerous situations
  • Continuing to use it when their psychological and physical problems are present
  • Becoming tolerant
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms tend to appear within a day of quitting and usually last for a period of one to two weeks, though some symptoms can last for much longer. Withdrawal symptoms of marijuana include irritability, agitation, insomnia, decreased appetite, anxiety, cravings, depression and mood swings. Since the majority of weed’s withdrawal symptoms are psychologically based, they require some fort of treatment in order to recover.

Why should a person stop using weed?

Those who have weed addiction have likely thought about the reasons why quitting would be good for them. However, those who have not experienced the negative affects of weed addiction may wonder why they should stop altogether. Here are some reasons why it is best to quit using weed as soon as possible.

  • Physical reasons –More energy, feel better and lower their risk of lung cancer
  • Psychological reasons – Lower anxiety and depression, and regain the chance of a happy life without the use of marijuana
  • Relationship-related reasons – Overcome relationship issues, develop new friendships and restore rifts that weed may have caused
  • Financial reasons – Save or use money that would have been spent on weed
  • Legal reasons – Stop illegal activity

What options are available for overcoming weed addiction?

Those who are addicted to marijuana, or wish to stop marijuana use, can certainly overcome their addiction. While overcoming weed may be difficult to do, there are two forms of rehab that can help people regain control of their lives.

Outpatient rehab

Outpatient rehab is a popular option and many weed addicts attend outpatient rehab sessions on a daily, weekly or frequent basis. These sessions include therapy and counselling, which helps recovering addicts learn how to recognise and avoid triggers, and overcome their weed addiction.

Inpatient rehab

Inpatient rehab is an effective option for overcoming any form of addiction. The treatment programmes are designed to provide their patients the necessary tools to recover, such as behavioural therapy, cognitive therapy and peer support. They can also help with any co-occurring disorders or addictions that may be an issue.


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