Marijuana Addiction: What the Science Says

Traditionally it’s been thought that marijuana addiction is not a real thing. 

For a long time, limited science on the subject suggested that it was impossible to become chemically addicted to marijuana like one can become addicted to other substances.

But with the growing popularity of marijuana use in the last decade, more scientific data is available about marijuana use and its effects on humans in the short and long term. 

What does the current data show?

This article will discuss the following:

  • Why many people think marijuana addiction is not a real thing
  • What current science says about marijuana addiction 
  • What to do if you think you might suffer from marijuana addiction
  • The proven benefits of marijuana 

For reference, this article will also refer to marijuana with the increasingly more popular terminology, cannabis

The argument that cannabis is not addictive 

There are several reasons some people might argue that cannabis is not addictive.

For one, there is a prevailing cultural attitude that it is not.

This is partly because of the lack of scientific evidence and the subjective experience of most people that there are no negative consequences of cannabis use.  

Historically, you heard little about “cannabis intoxication” related to impaired driving or bad decision-making. 

You also didn’t hear about cannabis causing someone to become so addicted that it took all their money, caused them to lose their job, or forced them onto the streets.

However, the primary reason for the belief that marijuana is not addictive is that chronic cannabis users who suddenly stop using do not experience any physical withdrawal symptoms. 

A lack of physical withdrawal symptoms, which is unlike the experience many people have with other substances such as alcohol or opioids, makes it appear less addictive than other substances.

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Another small but contributing factor to the argument that cannabis is not addictive is that there is still not a scientific consensus on the issue. 

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What current science says about marijuana addiction 

Cannabis use has increased in popularity and became more widespread in recent years.

Several states and countries have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational use, making it more accessible and socially acceptable.

There has been a shift in public opinion regarding cannabis.

More people consider it a safer and less harmful alternative to other substances.

With the increased availability and normalization of cannabis has come the opportunity for the scientific community to conduct more research on the effects of marijuana use.

Specifically, whether cannabis is an addictive substance. 

A large volume of recent peer-reviewed literature concludes that the short answer is yes. 

Yes, cannabis can be addictive

Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of cannabis by reducing its production and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

Endocannabinoid neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemical messengers in the body that send signals between nerve cells to help with various bodily functions.

Frequent use of marijuana can lead to problematic use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which is a marijuana dependence and takes the form of addiction in severe cases.

Marijuana use disorder becomes an addiction when the person cannot stop using it even though it interferes with many aspects of their life. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 9% of people who use marijuana will become addicted to it. 

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The number can go up to about 17% for those who start using it in their teens and up to 25-50% for those who use it daily.

What to do if you think you might have a cannabis addiction

Breaking a cannabis addiction can be challenging, but there are plenty of resources to help. 

If you believe you are suffering from marijuana addiction and want to stop using, here are several things you can try:

1. Seek Professional Help

Talking to a therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction can be a helpful first step in overcoming cannabis addiction. They can provide support, guidance, and resources for recovery.

2. Join a support group 

Support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous or Cannabis Anonymous can provide a supportive community of individuals who are also working to overcome their addiction.

3. Practice mindfulness and self-care

Engaging in activities such as meditation, exercise, or hobbies can help reduce stress and anxiety and provide a healthy outlet for emotions and energy. 

4. Avoid triggers

Identify and avoid situations and people that trigger the urge to use cannabis. This is an important step in preventing relapse. 

5. Find alternative coping mechanisms

Find healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and other emotions that may have been managed through cannabis use. 

6. Gradually reduce your use

Gradually reducing cannabis use over time can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and increase the chances of success in quitting. 

It’s important to remember that everyone’s journey to recovery is unique.

What works for one person may not work for another. 

A combination of strategies and a personalized approach may be needed for a successful outcome.

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 It’s also important to know that relapse is a standard part of the recovery process, and seeking help when needed can be a key component of success.

While cannabis addiction can happen, it has positives, too

Using cannabis can have both positive and negative effects.

It’s important for individuals to be informed about the risks and benefits before using it.

Not everyone who uses cannabis will become dependent or addicted to it. 

Current scientific research also shows that there are several positive aspects to cannabis use, and for the right individuals, it can be extremely beneficial. 

One such widely studied benefit is pain relief.

Cannabis effectively reduces pain, particularly chronic pain caused by conditions such as multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, and cancer.

They have also proven it improves sleep, particularly for individuals who have difficulty sleeping or suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia.

A few more confirmed benefits of using cannabis include:

  • Anxiety and stress relief
  • Nausea and vomiting reduction- good for patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Appetite stimulation – for people who have difficulty eating because of a medical condition, like cancer or HIV/AIDS 
  • Seizure reduction

Are you surprised by the science?

Hopefully, this article has helped you increase your knowledge and understanding of marijuana addiction and its positive and negative effects.

Whether you are a cannabis user or thinking about trying it, now you have more information to make good decisions. 

Please let us know your thoughts on marijuana addiction in the comments section below!

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