Marijuana Addiction: Is it Real?

As the most widely used drug in the United States, there has been an enormous push in recent years for more lenient marijuana laws governing both medicinal and recreational use. However, despite the fact that humans have been using this drug for thousands of years, there is still a great deal that remains unknown. But contrary to popular belief, whether or not marijuana is addictive is not one of those unknowns. Conclusive evidence has shown that a person can become addicted to cannabis in precisely the same way that one would form a heroin or cocaine habit. And while the consequences may not be as profound and intense as that of more dangerous street drugs, they are still very real and should be considered by anyone who uses marijuana.

The active ingredients in marijuana responsible for the “high” that it produces are several types of cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol. There are receptor sites in the brain that are designed exclusively to bind with these and other cannabinoids. When this binding occurs neurological pathways are constructed in the brain that allow the “high” (among other effects) to take place. Over time, these neurological pathways that service the marijuana experience become permanent in the brain and cause a significant urge to continue to use the drug despite any consequences.

Using marijuana activates the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. The feelings of relaxation and euphoria commonly reported with marijuana use are powerful enough rewards that- against their will or not- a person will begin to seek out again and again. Associations made while using the drug suddenly become part of an addictive cycle that is difficult or impossible to control without assistance. This means that when a person who has become addicted to marijuana encounters people, places, sounds, images or any other stimuli that they associate with marijuana use, those old neurological pathways will suddenly cause the person to feel an overwhelming urge to use pot again.

Though marijuana addiction is very real, it is often completely ignored by most users because the effects of addiction to this substance are not especially pronounced. However, people who attempt to stop using find that they fail repeatedly in this effort. When they do quit, they feel anxious, paranoid, socially awkward, aggressive and impatient. Often users will revert to using again in order to find relief from these feelings. And because the signs of marijuana addiction aren’t easily noticed, most chronic marijuana users remain undetected, using chronically every day for years at a time.

Because marijuana has been somewhat glorified by modern American society, even people who are aware of their marijuana addiction may be unwilling to do anything about it because there is no threat that they can actually see. However, clinical studies have shown that marijuana smoke contains a high amount of toxic chemicals and particulates that can be damaging to the heart, lungs and kidneys. Furthermore, chronic marijuana users often develop severe psychological and emotional disorders the very nature of which make it difficult to seek treatment, such as social anxiety, bipolar disorder and chronic panic disorder.

Modern drug addiction treatment centers are fully equipped to deal with even the most severe marijuana addiction. This generally starts with a professional detox center followed by a residential inpatient treatment program, outpatient treatment, or partial hospitalization program. Addiction therapies will work to arrest addictive behaviors and thoughts and develop reality-based tools to cope with associations and stressors that cause urges to use.

If you’ve come to the realization that your marijuana addiction must end for the betterment of your life, then please call us now. This is a serious issue with at great deal at stake, and we’re here 24 hours a day to help you.

About The Contributor

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More

Get Help for Drug Addiction during Coronavirus

Traveling for healthcare & essential services is permitted across the US. Addiction treatment is essential, and we are here for our patients in this difficult time.

Learn More