Cannabis is one of the most widely used substances in the world. The fact that it’s easy to come by, relatively safe, and has so many medicinal uses are all undoubtedly factors for its popularity. And, of course, the most obvious reason people love marijuana: it gets you high. Like with any other mind-altering substance, the question of can you become addicted to cannabis comes into play. Proponents of the plant downplay or outright deny that it’s addictive at all. Those more critical say that it’s just as addictive as any other ‘hardcore’ drug out there, and should be avoided at all costs.
In truth, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. While marijuana use can indeed lead to addiction, it is both rarer and less harmful than addiction to any other comparable substance like tobacco or cocaine. To understand marijuana addiction, we first have to figure out what exactly it means to be addicted.
Marijuana Addiction vs. Dependence
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, problematic cannabis use is described as “marijuana use disorder.” This disorder is characterized by one of two things: marijuana dependence and marijuana addiction.
Dependence occurs when someone experiences withdrawal symptoms when they’re not using the drug. In the case of marijuana, frequent use leads the body to adapt by making fewer of its own cannabinoids. So when marijuana is no longer present, the amount of cannabinoids in the body is under the baseline.
Because cannabinoids perform many essential functions in the brain, their absence can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Sleep difficulties
- Decreased appetite
- Physical discomfort
It’s important to note that dependence to a drug like marijuana does not in itself constitute a problem or addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse makes that clear, pointing out that even using prescription medications as directed can also lead to dependence. So despite marijuana’s potential withdrawal symptoms, most users have no difficulty quitting anyway.
Signs You’re Addicted To Cannabis
It is those who can’t stop that exhibit a marijuana addiction. Addiction is characterized by this inability to stop using the drug despite a litany of negative consequences. According to the DSM-5, these include:
- Wanting to stop but being unable
- Spending excessive time trying to get marijuana
- Failing to meet work, school, or family obligations
- Use of marijuana negatively affecting relationships
- Using despite physical or psychological problems
Fortunately, addiction to marijuana is much less common than a physical dependence on it. So rare is marijuana addiction, in fact, that it’s virtually the least addictive substance out there.
Marijuana is the Least Addictive
When compared to other drugs commonly spoken about in the same vein as cannabis, marijuana is the least addictive. According to this study published by the APA, 15.4% of people who try alcohol will become addicted. That number steadily rises when naming other drugs: 16.7% for cocaine, 23.1% for heroin, and 31.9% for tobacco.
Compare that to only 9.1% for cannabis, and the hysteria around the addictive potential of marijuana suddenly seems bizarre. Not only is it less addictive than other popular illicit drugs, but it’s less addictive than two of the most common legal drugs available.
And unlike alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin, marijuana abuse alone has never once resulted in someone’s death. So not only is it less addictive, but it is also less harmful than other drugs.
Can You Become Addicted To Cannabis?
Yes, you can become addicted to cannabis. But it’s more likely that you’ll get addicted to any other drug that you try. In short, the danger of marijuana addiction is often overblown. Studies have shown that it’s exceedingly rare, and the vast majority of people have no problem enjoying the plant recreationally.