Can you get addicted to weed? The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated.
Cannabis use disorder is an established diagnosis in the psychiatry field’s diagnostic Bible, the DSM-V. It falls in the family of substance-related addictive disorders.
This fact alone doesn’t say much about the dangers of marijuana addiction, considering the same section of the DSM-V contains entries on substances from heroin and alcohol to caffeine and tobacco.
The broad consensus in the medical community is that, while it’s possible to become dependent on marijuana, the dangers of the drug are slight in comparison to the havoc that alcohol and opioids wreak in the lives of addicts.
“We don’t see cannabis overdoses,” said Nathaniel P. Morris, an emergency physician writing in Scientific American. “We don’t order scans for cannabis-related brain abscesses. We don’t treat cannabis-induced heart attacks. In medicine, marijuana use is often seen on par with tobacco or caffeine consumption—something we counsel patients about stopping or limiting, but nothing urgent to treat or immediately life-threatening.”
Many times, users will claim that marijuana is not so much addicting as it is habit forming; coming home and sparking a joint after a long day can become routine and the regularity can make outsiders feel as though a user has an addiction.
Still, marijuana dependency has been on the rise along with reduced restrictions and legalization in a number of states. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 4 million Americans met the criteria for cannabis use disorder as outlined in the DSM-V, and 138,000 voluntarily sought help with their dependency in 2015.
How do I know if I’m addicted to weed?
The DSM-V states that a clinician can diagnose a person with cannabis use disorder if any two of the following events has happened to them in the past 12 months:
- You ingested or smoked more weed that you meant to or for longer than you meant to
- You want to stop or cut down on pot, but you can’t
- You spend a ton of time trying to get weed, use weed or recover from being high
- You get pot cravings
- You let people down at work, school or home because you’re too high to meet obligations
- You keep smoking pot even though it’s messing up your personal relationships
- You give up social activities and hobbies in favor of getting high
- You have a psychological problem you know is exacerbated by weed smoking, but you keep doing it anyway.
- You develop a high tolerance and need more marijuana to get the same high
- When you don’t smoke, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
The diagnostic manual is careful to note, however, that some of these symptoms can occur naturally in people using marijuana for medical purposes directed by a physician, and thus shouldn’t be used to diagnose someone in such a situation as being addicted to weed.
What are the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal?
According to the DSM-V, cannabis withdrawal symptoms start within one to three days after you quit marijuana and last roughly two weeks. Sleep problems that can last as long as a month.
Symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include:
- Insomnia and disturbing dreams,
- Decreased appetite or weight loss,
- Depressed mood,
- Abdominal pain,
- Headache, or
Where can I get help to stop smoking weed?
If you feel that you are indeed addicted to weed and want to rid yourself of a dependency on marijuana, contacting the non-profit Marijuana Anonymous may be a good place to start. MA is a 12-step program in the tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Some controversy has surrounded the effectiveness of 12-step programs in recent years, but many former drug and alcohol users are firm supporters of the method. The organization can also put you in touch with fellow users trying to give up weed and clinicians who can help you.
There are no medications approved to help ease the withdrawal from marijuana, but a doctor may prescribe a sleep aid, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse
The Institute outlines three psychotherapy treatments that can help you kick your weed habit:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This method helps you retrain your thinking and behavior with strategies to avoid using marijuana.
- Contingency management: This requires careful monitoring by a clinician to try to remove positive associations with the drug.
- Motivational enhancement therapy: This approach focuses on getting the marijuana user motivated to use his or her own “internal resources” to focus on changing behavior.
Given that cannabis can be quite habit forming, many users that feel they are addicted to weed should consider toking on some high-CBD strains. CBD itself will not get you high. However, the act of smoking might be enough to qualm some of the cravings. Furthermore, CBD has been shown to help repair some of the damage that can come about from chronic cannabis use as well as a slew of other medical benefits including depression and epilepsy. Thus, it’s a great go-to for when you are taking a break.