Marijuana is Addictive

marijuanaThere have always been several questions about whether or not marijuana is addictive.[1] Will you experience physical withdrawals if you suddenly stop marijuana?1 Can you be psychologically dependent on the drug?1 Could you quit if you wished to?1

Many people use marijuana. In fact, in 2009, marijuana was the primary drug of abuse for 61 percent of people under the age of 15.1 For those who entered treatment programs, 18 percent were marijuana users.1

Marijuana is different from many other drugs of abuse.1 As there are usually some subtle physiological signs of withdrawal when a chronic user stops smoking—mildly elevated pulse, irritability, and craving—these physical effects are generally quite mild and dramatically less powerful than the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines.1 However, this does not lead to the conclusion that marijuana is not addictive—it is.1 Addiction refers to behaviors that are compulsive, out-of-control, and escalating in severity and intensity.1

It is true that many who smoke marijuana are not addicted.1 Their use does not escalate over time and they can enjoy its effects without endangering the major elements of their lives.1 Others, however, are addicted. J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D. had a patient that stated, “Marijuana is my life, my family, my girlfriend, and my hobby.”1 In his late 20s, working construction, he smoked marijuana as soon as he woke up, on his way to work, during every break during the day, on his way home, and all evening until he went to bed.1 He had tried to quit multiple times without success.1 Using marijuana isolated him from his family and friends and put him at risk for injury at work.1 Although he did not experience any severe physiological withdrawal symptoms when he tried not to smoke, he was addicted to marijuana.1 His behavior was compulsive, out of his control, and escalated over time.1 He could not stop using the drug, and it was consuming his life.1

While many who smoke marijuana do so the way most drink alcohol—in moderation—some do so in a compulsive way that places many aspects of their lives in jeopardy, producing significant negative consequences.1 For those individuals, marijuana is unquestionably addictive.1

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