Clarifying It Once and for All: Is Cannabis Addictive or Not?
For a long time, it seemed cannabis was demonized. Although many people smoked it recreationally or at least tried it once, it was not accepted in the mainstream. With the decriminalization of marijuana use in certain jurisdictions, the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the rise of various cannabis products, marijuana is being seen in a different light. There is still lots of debate and politics surrounding the drug, though and the question of whether or not it is addictive still remains.
The short answer is that cannabis can be addictive. This means that frequent users experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug and many find it difficult to stop even when they want to. Before going into this in detail, it is worth noting that there is a difference between physical dependence and psychological addiction.
Cannabis dependence vs addiction
Physical dependence involves tolerance and withdrawal. Over time the body adapts to cannabis and its effects are not as pronounced. When an individual stop using cannabis, they experience symptoms like nervousness, cravings for the drug, loss of appetite and problems sleeping. These symptoms may not seem as serious as the vomiting or shaking associated with withdrawal from other drugs but they should be ignored. The severity of the symptoms also depends on how much the person smoked, the length of the time over which they smoke and their unique body makeup. Some people are more sensitive than others.
A marijuana user can be physically dependent on the drug without becoming addicted. Those who are addicted can’t stop using the drug even though it may be interfering with their personal lives and careers. They may lose the motivation to work or do the things they previously did. They may isolate themselves from people who don’t approve of their marijuana use.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis are not as severe as those associated with other drugs. This may be why there is still so much disagreement about whether or not it is truly addictive.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 9 percent of cannabis users become dependent. Those who begin using the drug when they are teenagers are at a greater risk for dependence. The likelihood increases by 20 to 25 percent if marijuana is used every day.
Treating cannabis dependence and addiction
Marijuana addiction is treated similarly to other drug addictions. There are no medications to help with the process but rehab centers can provide a safe and supportive space to detox. Medical staff can assist patients in the case of severe panic or anxiety attacks. Following detox, patients can benefit from counseling and education which can help them to adjust to a drug-free life. Support groups can help prevent future drug use problems.
It’s clear that not every person who uses cannabis becomes dependent or addicted. That doesn’t mean the drug is not addictive for some users. The age of first use and the frequency of use play major roles in how individuals react to the drug. If dependence of addiction occurs, there is help out there.