Can I Become Addicted to Marijuana?

A woman sitting at her office desk typing.

Can I Become Addicted to Marijuana?

Addiction, clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), is a disease in your body. When reward pathways are triggered in your brain, the neurotransmitter known as dopamine increases. This plays a central role in how the human mind reacts to pleasure. Anything that feels good can become addictive. If you enjoy running, sex, gambling, or even marijuana, it can become habit-forming. 

Society is mainly aware that certain substances such as illicit street drugs and alcohol can become addictive. A few highly addictive drugs include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and nicotine. It’s commonplace to see groups of people drinking at social events, as is spotting a person smoking a cigarette outside in public places. What about marijuana? While perspectives shift and drug legislation changes, the debate continues over marijuana’s addictive nature and risk factors.

What Is Marijuana? 

According to the National Library of Medicine, the substance known as marijuana consists of dried parts of the marijuana plant. The plant contains chemicals that alter certain pathways in your brain that change your mood and awareness. Sativa and indica are two different strains of the plant. Indica is known for its relaxing effects while sativa increases energy levels. There is also a hybrid version available for use.

How Is Marijuana Used?

The substance can come in several different forms. A few forms include: 

  • Wax
  • Powdered leaves
  • Traditional leaves
  • Tea and juice
  • Tincture
  • Oils

As the different parts of the plant can be made into several different products, the substance can be used in these variations:

  • Smoking marijuana (cigarette, cigar, or through a pipe)
  • Baking it in food and eating it
  • Brewing it as a tea
  • Smoking oils from the plant also known as “dabbing”
  • Using electronic vaporizers also known as “vaping”

Legalization of Marijuana

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last reviewed in 2021, marijuana is dissimilar to cannabidiol (CBD). Marijuana is known for its plant, whereas CBD is one of its many compounds, along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is not the psychoactive part of the plant as it is derived from hemp. THC causes psychoactive effects in the user. 

The United States Congress signed and passed the law to remove hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act. This action legalized CBD if it comes from hemp only. The legality of CBD products differs across the states. 

In 1996, medical cannabis was legalized in the state of California. Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. This sparked a wave where many US states decided to legalize medical marijuana by 2016. 

Negative Impact of Legalization

As we know, the legalization of addictive substances like marijuana remains a controversial topic. With the legalization of the plant, it is now more accessible than ever. There are dispensaries in many cities, while some even have built-in drive-thrus for customer convenience. Society fears that young adults using the drug may be more susceptible to misusing other substances. The probability of addiction is higher as the drug is more accessible today. 

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Based on a research report found in the National Institutes of Health 2020, marijuana use disorder occurs when an individual is addicted to the substance and is unable to stop using it even though the symptoms interfere with social interaction and health. A recent study states that approximately 30% of people who use marijuana develop marijuana use disorder. A person who frequently uses the plant may experience: 

  • Sleep problems
  • Cravings
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Signs of Marijuana Use Disorder

According to the same CDC study, people with marijuana use disorder who experience cravings then gradually increase their intake to achieve euphoric satisfaction. The concentration of THC has increased over the recent few decades. A few signs of marijuana use disorder include: 

  • Continuing to use the substance even when it causes problems with relationships
  • Driving under the influence
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms 
  • Avoiding social activities in favor of addiction
  • Using more marijuana than intended

Road to Recovery

With the legalization of marijuana making it more accessible to the public, society assumes the plant is not addictive. Anything can become addicting if it is pleasurable. Dependence on the drug has become more common over the years. Marijuana use disorder is very similar to other substance use disorders. The withdrawal symptoms and recovery process may be physically or mentally less severe for a person with marijuana use disorder, but treatment is still available.

If these challenges resonate with you or a loved one, it is imperative to seek out professional help. There are various behavioral therapy options available for treatment and recovery. Speaking to mental health professionals and finding a treatment facility can be highly beneficial for a person with marijuana use disorder.