There’s been an ongoing debate on whether or not cannabis has addictive qualities. Some insist there’s absolutely no risk, while others argue that the risk is bigger than we know. It turns out the truth actually lies somewhere in the middle.
Cannabis addiction is officially listed as “cannabis use disorder” in the DSM-V. It lists eleven qualifiers for the condition including cravings, inability to cut back, and the need for an increased amount of cannabis to reach desired effects. But not everyone who consumes cannabis meets the criteria of the DSM-V.
According to a survey conducted in 1994 and followed up in 2010 about 9% of those who smoke weed become dependent on it. Some say that the dependence is purely psychological, as any long-term habit is. Others say that there’s a risk for physical addiction in addition to the psychological aspects.
Well as it turns out, those who fall into the 9% of users who become dependent do have both psychological and physiological weaknesses to the substance. Professor Jim Anthony, a leading cannabis dependence expert and Michigan State University professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, says that people who cut back or quit experience both physical and emotional symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and lack of appetite.
What separates those who are dependent and those who aren’t? The answer is genetics. Some people are predisposed to addiction due to their biological makeup. In addition, mental health issues often lead to self-medicating for anxiety, depression, or other discomforts. It makes sense, if you feel awful without cannabis it can become easy to depend on it for comfort just like one could with alcohol, pharmaceuticals, or nicotine.
The difference between cannabis use disorder and other types of substance addiction is the risk. For example, nicotine has a 67.5% addiction rate, and alcohol has a 22.7% rate. This is a significant difference from the 9% rate of addiction to cannabis.
So, what are we supposed to do moving forward? The answer is simple, if not a little hard to follow for some: take your use seriously, don’t over do it, and try to recognize if you have an unhealthy dependence on cannabis. Take things slowly – not everyone can be like Snoop Dog and smoke blunts all day, and above all else, treat this wonderful plant as a medicine more than a pastime.
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.