Marijuana can be a good way to unwind every now and again, to say the least. Even if we use cannabis frequently, it doesn’t usually take over our lives. However, most of us have also known that one type of “stoner”, who is constantly high and always looking for their next smoke session. It begs the question: can you get addicted to weed?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers. Anti-pot PSAs have long answered a resounding “yes” to this question, via depictions of cannabis users turning into unmotivated blobs. However, if you were to ask your friendly neighborhood stoner, they’d probably say that of course you can’t get addicted to weed! As usual, the answer is somewhere in between.
The short answer: Yes, you can become addicted to weed
It’s something that makes a lot of cannabis users uncomfortable, but it’s important to acknowledge. You can, in fact, get addicted to weed, it’s just that most people don’t. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, only 8.9% of people who use marijuana end up dependent. It may sound like a high percentage, but consider the addiction rates of other substances:
- Cocaine: 20.9%
- Alcohol: 22.7%
- Nicotine: 67.5%
As you can see, the dependence rate for cannabis is on the low end. It’s also key to note that the age you begin smoking makes a huge difference. According to another study, people who start smoking pot as teens have a higher likelihood of developing a dependency, at about 16%. On the flip side, people who start smoking after 25 have basically no chance of getting addicted to weed. Why is this? Let’s explore.
Mechanics of Addiction
People who begin smoking marijuana after age 25 have a distinct advantage in avoiding dependency: a fully-matured brain.
Think of the brain as being full of messengers, running back and forth to deliver signals that tell your body to do nearly everything it does. Sleep, mood, appetite, motor control, and more are all regulated by your brain. A developing brain is still figuring out the right way to get all the right messages out, and the THC in marijuana disrupts messages in these developing systems.
A young adult brain that has learned that it’s getting a steady supply of THC simply doesn’t learn how to function properly without it. That’s how marijuana goes from being something that enhances your regular mood, to something that you need to maintain your baseline. That, unfortunately, is an addiction in a nutshell.
Signs & Symptoms of Addiction
The signs of cannabis dependency are pretty much the same as any other addiction, although physical symptoms are quite rare, and cannabis withdrawal symptoms aren’t the worst when someone quits. Look for behavioral shifts such as:
- Spending more time smoking
- Increased tolerance for marijuana and smoking more at one time
- Avoiding social interaction or hobbies in favor of smoking
- Increasing time spent thinking about procuring weed
- Panic or discomfort at the idea of not having any marijuana
Once weed use starts to become something central in a person’s life, it can become an issue. If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about is developing a dependency or may be at risk for it, the best thing to do is taper down marijuana intake, or simply take a break from smoking.
Cannabis can be a dramatically positive addition to most people’s lives, as long as it’s consumed mindfully and in moderation. So, next time someone asks “can you get addicted to weed?”, you know what to say!
Article By: Spencer Grey