The past decade has seen the medical use of marijuana legalized in many states across the country. Part of the push to legalize weed was the claim that marijuana, unlike “serious” drugs, is not addictive. But is this really the case? It depends.
If the standard of addiction is only physical withdrawal symptoms, then no, there are few compared to other addictive substances. However, according to the National Institute on Drug abuse, marijuana is addictive when looked at with other criteria.
How addictive is marijuana?
If addiction is defined as a habit that is compulsive and where users do not stop despite obvious detriment to their work and social lives – marijuana certainly falls in this category. Estimates of just how addictive it is come from Psychology Today. An article by Jann Gumbiner, Ph.D., gives estimates of relative addiction potential in the percentage of those who use a drug who become dependent upon it:
- * Heroin 23% addiction rate
- * Tobacco, 32%
- * Cocaine, 17%
- * Alcohol, 15%
- * Marijuana, 9%
These figures are backed up by the NIDA as well.
For those who are addicted to pot, these percentages do not matter much. What matters is that they are caught in the portion that can and has developed a problem with marijuana use.
What about marijuana withdrawal?
What are the withdrawal symptoms if there are no physical effects from stopping the drug? Well, many who quit experience sleeplessness, anxiety and depression. Cravings may emerge and a sense of being denied can come into play. According to NIST, marijuana addiction is most often associated with mental illness and addiction to other substances (such as alcohol or cocaine). The thinking is that using marijuana may be seen by addicts as a kind of “self treatment” for other problems.
Recovery from marijuana addiction isn’t automatic. While about 50% of those in treatment will manage a two-week period of abstinence, only 10 to 30% will stay off marijuana for an entire year. It is difficult, however, to say that these figures are directly caused by an addiction or are influenced by drug users who do not see much harm in smoking marijuana – as opposed to using “hard” drugs.
Photo by John Nyboer