Recognize the Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

Hands passing marijuana joint
Marijuana use can be addictive. Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Marijuana (cannabis) addiction is a pattern of marijuana use characterized by many of the typical signs and symptoms of drug addiction. The technical name for marijuana is "Cannabis Use Disorder," and it is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). You might hear it called cannabis or marijuana dependence, cannabis or marijuana abuse, or cannabis or marijuana misuse. These terms are now considered disrespectful to people who use substances, so have fallen out of favor, even in the medical profession, although of course, it is taking time for some people to catch up, especially those who have been working in the field for a long time and using this language.

If you use marijuana, you may be wondering if you've become addicted to it. If so, here's something that may come as a surprise: You've reached an important milestone on the road to changing your habits related to the drug.

Why is that? Because, as with other types of addiction, denial is common among people who use marijuana. Sometimes it is lack of awareness, and sometimes it is a refusal to accept reality, but people who use marijuana hardly ever admit to being addicted to it. In fact, many marijuana users strongly deny that it's even possible to be addicted to marijuana. So if you are questioning whether it is possible to be addicted to marijuana, you are ahead of those who don't even consider the possibility.


According to the DSM-5, the presence of at least two of the following symptoms, occurring within a period of 12 months, indicates you may be using marijuana in a way that might cause you problems:

  • Using it in larger amounts and over a longer period than you intended
  • Thinking a lot about cutting back or stopping your marijuana use, without success
  • Spending a lot of time seeking and using the drug and recovering from its effects
  • Craving (strongly desiring to use) marijuana
  • Using the drug so often, or getting so intoxicated by it, that you can't get important things done
  • Continuing to use it even when it's causing social or relationship problems for you, and/or even when you've developed a physical or psychological problem related to using it
  • Giving up or doing less of activities you used to enjoy because you'd rather use marijuana
  • Using it in situations that could be hazardous or even dangerous
  • Developing a tolerance for it — needing more and more of it to achieve the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you "run out" of or don't have access to marijuana

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What If You Think You May Be Addicted to Marijuana?'

First, take a good, clear look at the way you're living. How closely does your life fit with the addiction symptoms listed above? Remember, you're already past the denial stage, where many marijuana users "get stuck" and are unable to take back control of their lives. And you've read this article to this point, which suggests you're serious about getting help to curb or stop your marijuana use.

If you think you've crossed from casual or recreational marijuana use to marijuana addiction, seek help as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you've experienced certain negative effects of marijuana, particularly:

  • Extreme changes in mood, outlook, and/or the way you interpret things going on around you
  • Changes in your self-image and/or the way you think about yourself or other people, especially if you start thinking that others are watching you, following you, or plotting against you

Although these effects can be temporary, marijuana use has been linked to a very serious type of mental health problem called psychosis. Psychosis is treatable, but it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. Younger people in their teens and early twenties are particularly vulnerable to developing psychosis after using drugs, including marijuana. If you don't want your parents to know, go to the doctor on your own or with a friend, or find a youth clinic to help you.

Despite what you may have heard, marijuana is not a harmless drug. In addition to keeping you from fully experiencing your life, it can be a trigger for mental illness. Getting help for marijuana addiction right away increases the likelihood that treatment will be effective and permanent. 

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Article Sources
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  3. Hasin DS, O'Brien CP, Auriacombe M, et al. DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and RationaleAm J Psychiatry. 2013;170(8):834-851. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12060782

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  5. Haney M, Evins AE. Does Cannabis Cause, Exacerbate or Ameliorate Psychiatric Disorders? An Oversimplified Debate DiscussedNeuropsychopharmacology. 2016;41(2):393-401. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.251

Additional Reading
  • Beck K, Caldeira K, Vincent K, et al. The social context of cannabis use: relationship to cannabis use disorders and depressive symptoms among college students. Addictive Behaviours. 2009;34:764-768.

  • Dragt S, Nieman D, Becker H, et al. Age of onset of cannabis use is associated with age of onset of high-risk symptoms for psychosis. Can J Psychiatry. 2010;55:65-171.

  • Fiesta, F, Radovanovic M, Martins S, et al. Cross-national differences in clinically significant cannabis problems: epidemiologic evidence from 'cannabis-only' smokers in the United States, Mexico, and Colombia. BMC Public Health. 2010;10:152.

  • Fischer B, Rehm J, Irving H, et al. Typologies of cannabis users and associated characteristics relevant for public health: a latent class analysis of data from a nationally representative Canadian adult survey. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2010;9:110-124.