Recognize the Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Marijuana (cannabis) addiction is a pattern of marijuana use characterized by many of the typical signs and symptoms of any substance addiction. The technical name for this condition is “Cannabis Use Disorder” and it is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
You might hear it called cannabis or marijuana dependence, cannabis or marijuana abuse, or cannabis or marijuana misuse. These terms have fallen out of favor, even in the medical profession. It is taking time for people to catch up, even for some who have been working in the field for a long time and using this language.
If you use marijuana, you may be wondering if you’ve become addicted to it. If so, here’s something that may come as a surprise: You’ve reached an important milestone on the road to changing your habits related to the drug.
Why is that? Because, as with other types of addiction, denial is common among people who use marijuana. Sometimes it is a lack of awareness, and sometimes it is a refusal to accept reality, but people who use marijuana hardly ever admit to being addicted to it.
In fact, many marijuana users strongly deny that it’s even possible to be addicted to marijuana. So if you are questioning whether it is possible to be addicted to marijuana, you are ahead of those who don’t even consider the possibility.
According to the DSM-5, the presence of at least two of the following symptoms, occurring within a period of 12 months, indicates you may be using marijuana in a way that might cause you problems:
- Continuing to use it even when it’s causing social or relationship problems for you, and/or even when you’ve developed a physical or psychological problem related to using it
- Craving (strongly desiring to use) marijuana
- Developing a tolerance for it — needing more and more of it to achieve the same effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you “run out” of or don’t have access to marijuana
- Giving up or doing less of activities you used to enjoy because you’d rather use marijuana
- Using it in larger amounts and over a longer period than you intended
- Using it in situations that could be hazardous or even dangerous
- Using the drug so often, or getting so intoxicated by it, that you can’t get important things done
- Spending a lot of time seeking and using the drug and recovering from its effects
- Thinking a lot about cutting back or stopping your marijuana use, without success
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Steps to Recovery
First, take a good, clear look at the way you’re living. How closely does your life fit with the addiction symptoms listed above? Remember, you’re already past the denial stage, where many marijuana users “get stuck” and are unable to take back control of their lives.
And you’ve read this article to this point, which suggests you’re serious about getting help to curb or stop your marijuana use. If you think you’ve crossed from casual or recreational marijuana use to marijuana addiction, seek help as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you’ve experienced certain negative effects of marijuana, particularly:
- Changes in your self-image and/or the way you think about yourself or other people, especially if you start thinking that others are watching you, following you, or plotting against you
- Extreme changes in mood, outlook, and/or the way you interpret things going on around you
Although these effects can be temporary, marijuana use has been linked to a very serious type of mental health problem called psychosis. Psychosis is treatable, but it is important to get treatment as soon as possible.
Younger people in their teens and early twenties are particularly vulnerable to developing psychosis after using drugs, including marijuana. If you don’t want your parents to know, go to the doctor on your own or with a friend, or find a youth clinic to help you.
A Word From Verywell
Despite what you may have heard, marijuana is not always a harmless drug. In addition to potentially keeping you from fully experiencing your life, it can be a trigger for mental illness. Getting help for marijuana addiction right away increases the likelihood that treatment will be effective and permanent.Marijuana addiction is a recognized mental health disorder. If you think you may be addicted, these symptoms can help you decide whether to get help. ]]>