Is it Possible to be Addicted to Marijuana?

Steve Trevino
December 9, 2022

Some people use marijuana as a recreational pastime. Others use it for medicinal purposes. Either way, many wonder if it's possible to become addicted to marijuana.

The answer is yes; it is possible to become addicted to marijuana just like any other drug or alcohol. According to studies, some people who use marijuana may develop marijuana use disorder meaning they have difficulty controlling their marijuana use.

  • In one study, about 30% of people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder.
  • In another study, those who use marijuana have a 10% chance of becoming addicted.
  • Young people who start using marijuana before 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug and has a high potential for abuse. According to studies, marijuana is the most abused drug in the US. Both recreational and medical marijuana can cause dependence issues. 

What is Marijuana or Cannabis Use Disorder?

Marijuana or cannabis use disorder is having difficulty controlling your marijuana use. When you have marijuana use disorder, You may feel an intense desire to continue using despite adverse consequences, and you may experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit. The severity of marijuana use disorder is classified as mild, moderate, or severe.


How Does Cannabis Use Disorder Happen?

Cannabis use disorder can happen when someone uses marijuana frequently or in large amounts. It can also be caused by physical, psychological, environmental, and genetic factors. The drug contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a psychoactive ingredient that trigger's the brain's endocannabinoid receptors. Over time, you become less sensitive to the chemicals in marijuana and need more of it to feel the same effects.

Symptoms of Marijuana Dependence

The signs and symptoms of marijuana dependence can be physical or psychological.

Physical symptoms of marijuana use disorder include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Red eyes
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia
  • Feeling sluggish and tired
  • Increased appetite
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Poor hygiene
  • Impaired coordination, balance, and motor skills

Psychological symptoms of marijuana use disorder include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Heightened perception
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Increased temper and irritability
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health issues

Legalization Efforts and the Impacts on Marijuana Use 


In recent years, many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. This has led to marijuana becoming more accessible and accepted in today's society. As a result, there has been an increasing number of individuals using marijuana and a greater number of individuals becoming addicted to it.

The legalization efforts have also increased the availability and variety of marijuana products, such as edibles, waxes, and oils. Some of these products have higher concentrations of THC than the traditional plant-based form of marijuana and can lead to more severe and longer-lasting effects on the user.

And as marijuana use becomes more common, more people are exposed to its risks. It's essential for individuals, especially those in vulnerable populations, to be aware of the potential risks associated with using marijuana and the potential for addiction.

It's also essential for people to know that help is available if they are struggling with dependence and addiction. Seeking treatment from a qualified professional can help individuals overcome their addiction and reclaim control of their lives.

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Addiction

Though marijuana is often considered a harmless drug, many dangers are associated with long-term use.

  • Marijuana smoke contains many of the same irritants, toxins, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke, and regular exposure can lead to lung damage and cancer.
  • Marijuana use alters brain chemistry, resulting in problems with memory, learning, and attention. These changes can be especially harmful to young people whose brains are still developing.
  • Marijuana use and addiction are associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression, as well as suicidal thoughts and behavior. People may also neglect their health and experience weight loss.
  • Marijuana use can lead to addiction, with users developing a tolerance for the drug and needing more to achieve the same effects.
  • Prolonged use of marijuana is associated with immune system impairment, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and diseases.
  • Marijuana use poses a high risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Drug addiction also reduces fertility and sperm count in men.
  • Marijuana addiction can lead to issues in relationships, work, and school performance, as well as financial instability.
health care withdrawal-symptoms-addicted-to-marijuana-dependence-addiction-treatment-Texas

Treatment Options for Marijuana Addiction

Fortunately, there is a range of treatment options available for people who are struggling with marijuana addiction.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular methods for treating marijuana addiction. This approach focuses on helping individuals identify and address destructive behavior patterns to manage their cravings better and prevent relapse.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is another effective method of treating marijuana addiction. It helps people find their reasons for quitting and provides support and guidance as they take steps to achieve their goals. MET is especially effective for people who are heavy users of marijuana and can be a helpful tool for anyone who wants to quit
  • Contingency management is another option for treating marijuana addiction. This approach uses incentives to encourage healthy behaviors and discourage relapse. These can include rewards such as vouchers, cash, or access to activities that the individual enjoys when they stay on track with their treatment plan.

At the moment, the FDA has not approved any medications specifically for the treatment of marijuana addiction. However, research is ongoing, and there are some promising results from trials with existing medications (like sleep and anti-epileptic drugs) that may be effective in treating marijuana use disorder.

Finally, professional rehab and support groups can be an essential part of recovery for people with marijuana addiction. These will provide peer-based support, public health care resources, mental health treatment, and life skills training that can help people rebuild their lives.

No matter what approach is taken, the most crucial step in overcoming marijuana addiction is a commitment to making positive changes in one's life. With the proper support and dedication, it's possible to break free from addiction and start living a healthier, more fulfilling life.


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About The Author: 
Steve Trevino
Steve Trevino is married to Julie, his high school sweetheart and they have two daughters. He is the founder and executive director of CrossCentral Church and Recovery Center. With experience in both non-profit and for-profit treatment, he has helped thousands find freedom from addiction through residential programs, recovery workshops and consulting around the world.

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