Signs Someone Is Addicted to Marijuana

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Marijuana addiction occurs when a person's use of the drug disrupts their daily activities, relationships, ability to work, and/or they can't stop using the substance even though they want to quit. This is defined as cannabis use disorder by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Most people who use weed will not become addicted. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about one out of every ten people who uses marijuana will become addicted.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana addiction is uncommon and can only be diagnosed in severe cases. Only a small percentage of people who use weed will develop what is known as cannabis use disorder. The number rises significantly for those who started using weed in their teens, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

If someone you know uses pot occasionally and it doesn't disrupt their life, they likely do not have an addiction to marijuana.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Rather than use the term "addiction," health professionals prefer the term "cannabis use disorder." The NIDA estimates that about 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of this disorder.

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States, but it can have serious health consequences as well as other negative effects on a person's life. There are some signs to watch out for that suggest a person might be addicted to weed.

Strong Cravings

One of the major signs of cannabis use disorder, according to the DSM, is a strong craving to use marijuana. A person's urges might be so strong, for example, that they would sacrifice other commitments such as work or school in order to acquire and use marijuana.

Loss of Interest in Activities

Someone who is addicted to marijuana will prioritize their drug use over other aspects of their life. They will likely cut back on activities that previously brought them joy or withdraw from them altogether.

A person with marijuana addiction may struggle to maintain healthy relationships with their friends and family if they withdraw from socializing in order to use the drug.

In addition, marijuana dependence has been linked with a lack of motivation. Someone who is addicted may lack the drive to engage in activities, pursue goals, or keep up with responsibilities, including school and work.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If someone frequently uses marijuana and experiences withdrawal symptoms upon stopping the drug, they may be considered to have marijuana dependence. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are typically mild, peak within the first week after quitting, and may last up to two weeks. Symptoms include:

Increased Tolerance

According to the DSM, tolerance to a drug happens when, over time, a person isn't able to achieve the desired effects or "high" by using the same amount of the drug. They will need a larger amount of the drug to achieve these effects.

A sign of marijuana addiction is increased tolerance. In other words, the more someone uses weed, the more they will need to use as their body becomes desensitized to it.

Using Despite Negative Consequences

Someone with a weed addiction may realize that their drug use is affecting them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Studies have found that some of these consequences include:

  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired motor skills (increased risk of injury)
  • Paranoia
  • Higher risk of psychosis
  • Cognitive impairment (lower IQ)
  • Dropping out of school
  • Inability to fulfill work commitments
  • Financial instability

Despite the negative influence their addiction has on their life, however, someone with cannabis use disorder will continue to use marijuana.

Dangers of Teen Marijuana Addiction

Research has examined how marijuana affects teens. Though findings are mixed, many experts acknowledge there are potential negative effects of weed on developing brains.

Some studies suggest that teenagers who use marijuana frequently may experience short-term effects such as problems with memory, learning, coordination, and judgment.

A large cohort study followed nearly 4,000 young adults over a 25-year period into mid-adulthood. It found that although cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana is associated with lower verbal memory test scores, exposure did not affect other cognitive abilities like processing speed or executive function.

There are also potential long-term effects. Some studies suggest an association between regular marijuana use in teens and "altered connectivity and reduced volume of specific brain regions."

However, other studies have found that the differences in brain structure between those who use marijuana and those who don't could be attributed to "predispositional factors," including genetics. More research is needed on the direct effect marijuana has on the brain, while taking into consideration the many variables such as frequency of use, genetics, environment, and more.

Studies have found that frequent use of marijuana as a teenager can be associated with an average IQ loss of eight points that were not recoverable after quitting. However, the same use in adults showed no reduction in IQ. The research data suggests marijuana's strongest long-term impact is on young people whose brains are still developing.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

Marijuana is not generally considered a "gateway drug" because the majority of those who use weed do not go on to use harder substances, including cocaine and heroin.

Social environment might be a more critical factor in determining someone's risk for trying harder drugs.

If someone is vulnerable to getting involved with drugs, they generally start with substances that are readily available, such as alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana.

However, a person is also likely to start using the same substances that are used by the people in their social environment, no matter how addictive the drug.

A Word From Verywell

While most people do not become addicted to marijuana, addiction is a potential risk. Due to the possible effects of marijuana on developing brains, it's important to be especially aware of the signs of marijuana addiction in children and teens. There are resources and treatment options available for those who are facing addiction.

If you or a loved one are struggling with cannabis use disorder, 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.

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Article Sources
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