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 any substance addiction. The technical name for this condition 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 have fallen out of favor, even in the medical profession. However, it is taking time for people to catch up, even for some who have been working in the field for a long time.

People who use marijuana often think addiction is not possible. But it is important to be aware that you can become addicted to marijuana.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that 30% of people who use marijuana will develop marijuana use disorder.


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 problems:

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

Some of the common signs of a problem with marijuana addiction include losing interest in things you used to enjoy, damaged relationships, and being unable to stop using the substance. If you begin to note some or many of these symptoms, it may be a sign that you have a problem.

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.

Risks of Marijuana Addiction

One of the primary risks associated with marijuana addiction in young people is the potential for permanent brain damage.

In addition to the risk of addiction, adverse health effects of marijuana use can include both short- and long-term effects on areas of the brain responsible for attention, learning, decision-making, emotions, coordination, and memory.

Marijuana also poses risks to brain development in young people. Because the brain is in an active state of development from the prenatal period until the early 20s, it is much more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of different environmental influences, including exposure to marijuana.

The age of onset of use is a critical factor Early use may have more detrimental neurotoxic effects on the developing brain of adolescents compared to those on the adult brain.

While there is a need for further research, data suggests that vocabulary and information measures of crystallized intelligence—which measure knowledge acquired through experience or learning—are lower in young people who use marijuana.

Steps to Recovery

The first step to recovery is often taking a serious look at how your marijuana use is affecting your life, work, and relationships. How closely does your life fit with the addiction symptoms listed above? If you feel like you might have a problem, it means that you are already past the denial stage, where many people "get stuck" and are unable to take back control of their lives.

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:

  • 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
  • Extreme changes in mood, outlook, and/or the way you interpret things going on around 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 seek help as soon as possible.

Younger people in their teens and early twenties are particularly vulnerable to developing psychosis after using drugs, including marijuana.

A Word From Verywell

Despite what you may have heard, marijuana is not always a harmless drug. In addition to potentially keeping you from fully experiencing your life, it can be addictive and can trigger mental illness as well as permanent brain damage.

Getting help for marijuana addiction right away increases the likelihood that treatment will be effective and permanent. Talk to your doctor or contact a mental health professional to learn more about treatment options.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.