This article will answer the question: Is marijuana addictive?
Two weeks ago I wrote an article titled is weed bad for you, which received quite a bit of reaction, both negative and positive.
I got a lot of comments from people that seem to be active in promoting cannabis usage online, and it appears that they don’t really have any knowledge of the science behind marijuana.
Many of them claim that there are “tons of studies” proving their point. However, when you ask for the studies, these individuals tend to go silent.
I’d like to say that I have nothing against adults smoking weed.. their lives, their bodies, fine by me.
But I do have a major problem when people are claiming that it isn’t addictive, or that it is healthy, because that is simply wrong.
Teenagers are reading this stuff online, and I’ve heard kids as young as 14 years old say that they’ve read about the apparent “health benefits” of marijuana online.
Here I will review the actual studies behind marijuana addiction, which can easily be found by anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject, simply by going to Google Scholar and typing in “Cannabis Dependence”, which is the scientific term for addiction to weed.
And no, using “does dat weed-o make ya crazy?” as a search query won’t work.
Marijuana Addiction and the DSM-IV
I would like to make the distinction between two terms that are used to describe marijuana addiction.
These are Cannabis Abuse and Cannabis Dependence, as defined by the DSM-IV, which is a set of criteria used for classification of mental disorders.
Cannabis Abuse is a slightly milder term than Cannabis Dependence, but is still a sign of problems caused by marijuana use.
Cannabis Abuse – A pattern of substance abuse with at least one of the following:
- Failure to fulfil obligations due to substance use.
- Use in physically dangerous situations (such as driving).
- Substance-related legal problems.
- Continued use despite personal or social problems caused by effects of the substance.
Cannabis Dependence – When the individual fulfils 3 or more of the following criteria:
- Withdrawal (also a sign of physical dependence).
- Takes a larger amount than intended.
- Unsuccessful efforts to reduce consumption.
- Large amount of time spent on acquiring, using or recovering from the substance.
- Important activities given up due to substance use.
- Continued use despite physical or psychological problems.
For more information, read this presentation on cannabis abuse.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Alright, let’s get to the heart of the matter and see whether marijuana is addictive or not.
In one study, 1265 children were followed from birth and then questioned for cannabis use at the age of 21. It turned out that 69% of them had used cannabis at least once in their lives. Over 9% of the sample met the criteria for cannabis dependence (1).
Another study of 42.862 individuals revealed that out of those who had used cannabis at some point in the last 12 months, 23,1% met the criteria for cannabis abuse and 6,3% for cannabis dependence (2).
A sample of 1601 individuals with a mean age of 20.7 years revealed that 59% of them had used cannabis at some point in their lives, and 7% were cannabis dependent (3).
In this study, 3.021 individuals at the ages of 14-24 were questioned at baseline and then 4 and 10 years later. At baseline, 8,1% of cannabis users met the criteria for cannabis abuse and 4,3% for dependence.
At 4 years of follow up, 11,9% of the sample met the criteria for abuse. At 10 years of follow up, 7,5% for abuse and 6,1% for dependence (4).
A sample of 10.641 individuals aged 18 years or older revealed that 1,5% of them were cannabis dependent and 0,7% met the criteria for cannabis abuse. Of habitual users, 21% were cannabis dependent and 10,7% met criteria for abuse (5).
Another sample of about 950 individuals questioned at the ages of 15, 18 and 21 revealed that 6,6% of individuals were cannabis dependent at age 18, compared to 9,6% of users at age 21 (6).
In a sample of 229 teenagers being treated for substance and conduct problems, 78,6% met the criteria for cannabis dependence (7).
I think this is enough for now, but in a future blog post I will explain how marijuana can be physically addictive as well, which is something many people have claimed not to be true.
According to the studies cited above, marijuana is addictive.
That is the truth, plain and simple.
Anyone who tells you that marijuana isn’t addictive is either lying or severely misinformed.