Is Cannabis Actually Addictive?

When it comes to drugs like the nicotine, caffeine or even heavier substances such as cocaine or heroin, we know that they are in fact, addictive.

However, the answer to whether or not cannabis is addictive is not so simple.

This hot-button question is representative of a huge grey area of misunderstanding. The ambiguity stems from a lack of understanding of fundamental concepts around addiction, as well as an exaggerated history of “reefer madness.”

We must start by understanding the differences between addiction and use disorders.

Defining Addiction

Addiction is a disease that affects everything in a person’s life. When a person is addicted, chemical dependencies are formed. Thoughts are swayed, and everyday actions are consumed by the deathly grips of the hands of addiction.

Withdrawals are another main component of addiction. There are not only cognitive symptoms, but painful physical ones as well.

Professor Roger Roffman of University of Washington elaborates:

“The language of addiction, dependence, and disorders is one thing when you talk to scientists and it’s another when you talk to the public. Addiction results from a combination of biological and psychological factors that contribute to conditioned behavioral patterns that are very difficult to stop or resist.”

Many will argue that cannabis addiction can form, based on the belief that manifestations of addiction take place psychologically. Essentially, those who take this stance believe that since cannabis produces pleasurable responses in the brain, it’s automatically addicting.

While there is some truth to this, marijuana users aren’t addicts. And the small number of people who overuse cannabis, are still rarely, if ever, addicted.

Cannabis Use Disorder

People who have an unhealthy relationship with cannabis do not have an addiction—they have cannabis use disorder.

While it may seem like this is splitting hairs, substance use disorders and addictions are actually quite different.

When it comes to cannabis, there aren’t major physical withdrawal symptoms, like those of someone getting off heroin or meth would experience. But cannabis can cause some problems for people who overuse the substance.

Cannabis, like many other substances, can keep some from thriving in life. A resource by Medscape helps define a cannabis-related disorder as “a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

So, rather than simply asking “is cannabis addictive?” the perspective of the question should shift slightly. We should be asking “what does cannabis use disorder look like?”

Related: New Non-Addictive, Anti-Pain Compound Discovered in Marijuana

What Is Undeniably True About Cannabis

Stigmas are responsible for the widespread belief that cannabis is automatically damaging and addicting. It’s also still viewed as a gateway drug, despite there being government provided evidence that proves otherwise.

Medical cannabis fights a surprising number of diseases and disorders, including epilepsy, eating disorders, mesothelioma and even many types of cancers.

Smoking, on the other hand, is undeniably not good for us. When something is burned and smoked, whether that’s a cigarette or joint, carcinogens are produced. The produced carcinogens and heat can cause a lot of problems for our bodies. Smoking is also one of the most common cause of sore throats. Gum disease is also a commonly overlooked side effect of smoking, as well as other oral health issues and mouth and esophagus cancer.

However, smoking isn’t the only way to ingest cannabis; cannabis oil and other medical concentrates (including CBD which doesn’t induce a head high) are common forms of treatment for women’s health issues, anxiety, pain and insomnia.

Let the following segment from the show Adam Ruins Everything, tie up any loose end you may still have on the troubling history, legalities and misconceptions of marijuana.

Written by Robert Parmer

205 comments

Telica R
Telica R7 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Janet B
Janet B7 months ago

Thanks

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Christine J
Christine J8 months ago

Hmm, it's complicated. Sometimes folks with mental health, emotional or behavioural problems will self-medicate with cannabis, and then it's chicken vs egg; hard to tell which came first. I'm always very cynical about medical statistics, especially as reported in the media; I've seen too many "Cigarettes killed him" statements which fail to mention that the poor chap was 98 or that he drank heavily or ate poorly or any number of other contributing factors.

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Jim Ven
Jim V9 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Mike H
Mike H9 months ago

Marijuana is a helpful medicine for some medical conditions. Nuff said

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Elizabeth O
Elizabeth O9 months ago

Thanks for the article.

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Peggy B
Peggy B9 months ago

JT Smith ... Coming from a family full of doctors and medical professionals I beg to differ. Marijuana in itself is not addictive physically. It can become a crutch as a mood enhancer. To your comment that addiction is not a disease is wrong. Don't take my word for it. According to DrugAbuse.gov, “Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her.”

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JT S
JT Smith9 months ago

The fact is that ANYTHING can be addictive. Personally I'm addicted to oxygen and potable water. Seriously, I simply cannot live without them. And I've had to work with enough potheads to know that, yes, it's addictive. And addiction is NOT a disease, it's an extremely bad habit. Treating addiction as a disease actually limits the approaches that people will consider, particularly when compared to treating it as the bad habit addiction is.

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Julia S
Julia S9 months ago

Thank you!

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