Updated on February 6, 2024
8 min read

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Key Takeaways

Marijuana is a substance that has been controversial over the years. Its widespread availability has made its recreational and medical use increasingly accepted worldwide, but this doesn't mean it can’t potentially be dangerous.

With shifting attitudes about marijuana and changing laws surrounding it, fully understanding the effects is more important than ever. It's essential to be aware of the risks and potential for addiction.

This article explores marijuana’s potential risks and abuse issues. It also discusses treatment options for those struggling with marijuana addiction.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Yes, marijuana can be addictive. While some may argue that it's not as addictive as other drugs like cocaine or heroin, prolonged and heavy use of marijuana can lead to addiction.

In 2021, approximately 5.8 percent (around 16.3 million) of people aged 12 or older had a cannabis use disorder.1 Additionally, among people aged 12 or older in the same year, 18.7 percent (or around 52.5 million people) reported cannabis use.1

These factors can contribute to the development of marijuana addiction:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental influences
  • Availability and accessibility of the drug

What Is Marijuana Use Disorder?

Marijuana use disorder, or cannabis use disorder (CUD), is when you keep using marijuana despite causing significant problems. It also involves experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop its use.

CUD often comes with other issues, like alcohol abuse, substance use disorders, or mental health conditions. Long-term use of marijuana can lead to behavior and thinking problems. 

However, most overlook treatment for marijuana addiction, partly because more are accepting of marijuana use. Interestingly, men are twice as likely as women to be addicted to marijuana.2


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What are the Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction?

There’s no definitive categorization for a person with a marijuana addiction. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders provides common signs and symptoms of addiction:

  • Difficulty controlling the amount or frequency of marijuana use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit consumption
  • Continued use despite negative consequences (like legal and relationship issues)
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations to use marijuana
  • Using larger amounts over prolonged periods to achieve the desired effects
  • Spending a significant amount of time trying to obtain, use, and recover from marijuana

What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Marijuana Use Disorder?

After quitting use, someone with a marijuana use disorder may experience the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Disrupted sleeping and eating patterns
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Frequent cravings
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Physical and mental discomfort
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Reduced interest in previously enjoyable activities

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can still occur in one-half of those undergoing treatment for cannabis use disorders.3 Most symptoms manifest during the initial week of abstinence and tend to subside after a few weeks.

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Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

Marijuana addiction treatment is similar to other substance abuse treatments. It involves a combination of medical detox, therapy, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Medical Detox

Medical detox is the process of eliminating drugs from your body. Depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms, it can occur in an outpatient or inpatient setting.

Medical professionals may provide medications during detox to help manage symptoms and ensure your safety during withdrawal. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction.

Therapy Sessions

Individual and group therapy sessions are often part of addiction treatment programs. These sessions help address underlying issues that may have contributed to drug abuse.

Behavioral therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy, can also help develop coping strategies and healthier behaviors. It also involves identifying and avoiding potential triggers for relapse.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT combines medication and behavioral therapy to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. It's often helpful in treating opioid addiction but has also shown promise in addressing marijuana use disorders.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for treating marijuana addiction. However, certain medications help alleviate symptoms due to withdrawal and other mental health conditions.

For instance, antidepressants may help with symptoms of depression and anxiety from marijuana withdrawal.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment involves regular visits to a clinic or healthcare facility. This type of treatment is usually ideal for those with mild addiction. 

Outpatient treatment typically includes individual and group therapy sessions and support groups, including:

  • Marijuana Anonymous (MA): A 12-step program for those struggling with marijuana addiction. Meeting attendance is free and open to anyone recovering from addiction.
  • SMART Recovery: Another support group that helps you abstain from substance use after recovering from your addiction.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient rehabilitation involves residing at a rehabilitation center for an extended period, typically lasting anywhere from 28 days to 3 months. It offers 24/7 support and care, allowing you to focus on your recovery fully.

Inpatient treatment is often best for people with severe addictions. It's also ideal for those who have relapsed after previous treatment attempts.

How Can You Prevent Marijuana Addiction?

To help prevent marijuana addiction, it's essential to follow these steps:

  • Avoid drug use: The best way to prevent addiction is to avoid using drugs, including marijuana. This also includes limiting exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.
  • Educate yourself and others: Share information about the dangers of marijuana use, its potential for addiction, and ways to seek help with friends and family members.
  • Seek alternative forms of recreation: If you or someone you know is using marijuana as a form of recreation, try to find alternative activities that are enjoyable and do not involve drug use.
  • Seek help for mental health conditions: Many people turn to drugs as a way to self-medicate underlying mental health conditions. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, seek proper treatment and support.

Guidance for Caregivers and Family Members

Here are some ways to provide support and help those struggling with marijuana abuse overcome their addiction:

  • Educate yourself about the drug: Research and learn more about marijuana addiction, its signs, symptoms, and effects on the body. The more knowledge you have, the better you understand your loved one's struggles.
  • Encourage them to seek treatment: Offer your support and encouragement to seek professional help. Let them know you're always by their side, and you can accompany them to appointments or even help them find a treatment facility.
  • Be patient and understanding: Recovery from addiction is a long process, and there will be setbacks along the way. It's essential to be patient and understanding with your loved one as they work towards sobriety.
  • Avoid enabling behaviors: It can be tempting to try and protect your loved one from the consequences of their addiction, but this can actually hinder their recovery. Avoid giving them money or making excuses for their behavior.
  • Take care of yourself: Supporting a loved one through addiction can be emotionally and physically draining. Take care of your well-being, and seek support from others if necessary.

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Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with marijuana addiction, there are resources available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options

How Do People Consume Marijuana?

You can consume marijuana in plenty of ways to experience a high. Some include:

  • Smoking: Marijuana smoking is the most common method, where users roll dried marijuana flowers into a joint. People also smoke it using a pipe or bong.
  • Edibles: Edibles are another form of consumption where users infuse marijuana into food or drinks. This method takes longer to feel the effects, but they can be stronger and last longer.
  • Tinctures: Some people may also use tinctures, which are concentrated liquids made from marijuana extract, to consume marijuana orally.
  • Topical applications: Topical application involves applying cannabis-infused creams or oils directly onto the skin for localized pain relief.
  • Ingestible oils: Cannabis oils are another popular method of consumption, where users can ingest the oil orally, directly, or by mixing it into food or drinks.
  • Dabbing and vaping: In recent years, cannabis concentrates have become increasingly popular, with methods such as dabbing and vaping. These concentrated forms of cannabis are much more potent and can produce intense highs.

What are the Possible Risks Factors of Marijuana Abuse?

Marijuana has some health benefits, such as aiding in pain relief and reducing nausea. Physicians also commonly prescribe to cancer patients and those with chronic illnesses.

However, abusing the substance recreationally leads to these adverse health consequences over time:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased appetite, which can lead to weight gain
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Phlegmy coughs
  • Increased risk for lung cancer
  • Irritated lungs and difficulty breathing
  • Higher risk of developing bronchitis
  • Potential increase in depression and anxiety, which can lead to mental disorders


Marijuana is a drug with potential medical benefits and harmful effects. While it may be helpful for some, abusing the substance can lead to adverse health consequences.

If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana addiction, seek help from a professional treatment program immediately. Addiction is a treatable disorder, and getting help is the first step towards living a healthier and happier life.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report: What is the scope of cannabis (marijuana) use in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  2. Cuttler et al. “Sex Differences in Cannabis Use and Effects: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Cannabis Users.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  3. Pharmacological Treatment of Cannabis Dependence.” Current Pharmaceutical Design, National Library of Medicine, 2012.
  4. Berke et al. “Delaware just became the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana. See a list of every state where cannabis is legal.” Business Insider, 2023.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Marijuana Use Disorder Is Common and Often Untreated.” National Institutes of Health, 2016.
  6. Is Marijuana Addictive?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
  7. What Is Marijuana?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
  8. Hansen et al. “Where Is Marijuana Legal? A Guide to Marijuana Legalization.” U.S. News, 2023.
  9. State Medical Cannabis Laws.” National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023.
  10. Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report: Is marijuana addictive?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
  11. Isles, C. “7 Potential Health Benefits of Cannabis.” Johnson & Wales University, 2021.

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