Categories
BLOG

am i addicted to weed

How Do You Know If Someone Is Addicted to Weed?

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If your friend smokes weed and you are concerned that it is a problem, talk to them about it. A clear sign that recreational substances, such as alcohol or marijuana, have become an addiction is when family life, daily activities, and ability to work is impeded, and/or they can’t stop using the substance even though they want to quit.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana addiction is uncommon and can only be diagnosed in severe cases. Only a small percentage of users will develop what is known as a marijuana 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 your friend uses pot occasionally, they likely do not have an addiction to marijuana.

Marijuana Use Disorder

Rather than use the term “addiction,” health professionals prefer the term “marijuana use disorder.” The NIDA estimates that about 30% of marijuana users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder.  

Marijuana Dependence

If your friend 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:  

  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness​

Marijuana Effects on the Adolescent Brain

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

There are also long-term effects. Some studies suggest an association between regular marijuana use in teens and “altered connectivity and reduced volume of specific brain regions.”     But other studies “have not found significant structural differences between the brains of users and non-users.”  

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.  

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 users whose brains are still developing.  

Marijuana As a Gateway Drug

Marijuana is not generally considered a “gateway drug” because the majority of weed users do not go on to use harder, addictive 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 more vulnerable to getting involved with addictive substances, they are more likely to start with substances that are more readily available, such as alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana. People who have social interactions with other substance users are more likely to try other drugs.  

If your friend uses weed and it does not interfere with work, family life or daily activities, it is likely that your friend does not have an addiction.

Recognize the Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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).  

Overview

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. It is taking time for people to catch up, even for some 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 a 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.

Symptoms

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:  

  • 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
  • Craving (strongly desiring to use) marijuana
  • 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
  • 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

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.

Steps to Recovery

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:  

  • 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 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.

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 a trigger for mental illness. Getting help for marijuana addiction right away increases the likelihood that treatment will be effective and permanent.

Marijuana addiction is a recognized mental health disorder. If you think you may be addicted, these symptoms can help you decide whether to get help.