Is cannabis addictive?
Contrary to what most people think, smoking cannabis (also known as marijuana, pot, weed or hash) can become a problem leading to cannabis use disorder, and in severe cases cannabis addiction. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug which means it changes brain function and can alter mood, perception and consciousness. Usually smoked in a cigarette or pipe, cannabis is the most frequently used drug in Europe and the US. In Europe, cannabis was the main drug for 21% of patients seeking treatment. 65% took another substance as well, usually cocaine or alcohol.
What is cannabis use disorder?
Problem use of cannabis is known as cannabis use disorder or cannabis dependence. It is a condition in which someone cannot stop smoking cannabis even though it is interfering with many aspects of their lives, such as their relationships or jobs. Cannabis dependence may be diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe depending on the number of symptoms present.
Though cannabis use disorder may be less severe and take longer to develop than other substance disorders, it can still have serious social and psychological effects. It can also cause physical problems including cannabis withdrawal symptoms.
What causes cannabis dependence?
Regularly smoking cannabis over a prolonged period, for example to relax and reduce stress, causes cannabis dependence. Almost 10% of people who use cannabis regularly become dependent on it. Adults seek treatment for marijuana abuse after an average of 10 years’ near-daily use, and numerous attempts at quitting (1).
The fact that cannabis is so widely used, means that increasingly more people are being admitted for cannabis use disorder treatment.
Is marijuana dependence genetic?
A study from 2016 found that people with certain genetic markers may have a higher risk of developing marijuana dependence. Further, depression and schizophrenia may share underlying genetic factors. Previous studies have linked using cannabis early in life to an increased risk of schizophrenia.
What are the other risk factors for developing cannabis use disorder?
The reasons people start taking cannabis often differ from the factors leading to subsequent problematic use or dependency. Peer pressure, the wide availability of cannabis and being open to taking drugs are factors associated with trying cannabis in the first place. Some factors associated with progression to cannabis dependence are:
- Age at which someone starts taking cannabis - young people who begin using marijuana before 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a cannabis use disorder than adults (2).
- Familial factors, such as parental separation, divorce, or the death of a parent before a child is 15.
- Intensive or risky patterns of cannabis use.
- Psychological and mental health factors, including low self-esteem and self-control.
- Low socio-economic status, poor financial situation.
How can cannabis use disorder be treated?
Do I have cannabis use disorder?
High-risk cannabis use is considered to be daily or near-daily use (20 days or more a month). Are you concerned about your cannabis use? Take our cannabis addiction test to find out more about the signs of cannabis addiction and whether you need to stop smoking cannabis.
(1) Budney, AJ; Roffman, R; Stephens, RS; Walker, D (Dec 2007). "Marijuana dependence and its treatment.". Addiction science & clinical practice.
(2) Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005.