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Is Marijuana Addictive? Everything You Need to Know

Posted on February 28, 2022

The growth of legal marijuana use in parts of the U.S. may suggest it remains a harmless drug. Those who use a medicinal version of it speak of the benefits to their health and well-being, perhaps adding to the notion that it’s completely safe. Let’s examine what can make its use problematic and how to recognize when marijuana addiction has already begun.

Marijuana, also called weed, can be addictive for users, whether consumed by smoking or through consuming it in another form, such as edibles. People at the highest risk of developing an addiction are daily users and heavy users. An increased risk for developing an addiction to marijuana can also come from starting to use it in the adolescent years when brain development is not yet complete. Withdrawal symptoms may appear as restlessness, irritability, changes in appetite, and cravings. Treatment for marijuana use is widely available. If a person has a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, it’s recommended to seek dual diagnosis treatment. 

Is marijuana addictive?

The main chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) THC is a psychoactive element with addictive properties. Psychoactive means it’s capable of altering your mind by making changes to the brain and nervous system.

People who turn to marijuana on occasion or first-time users may wonder, “Is weed addictive,” but they aren’t at risk immediately for a substance use disorder from the drug. The frequency of marijuana use is a factor in determining its potential for addiction. Another factor is the amount a user will consume by smoking, consuming edibles, or taking it in another form. 

Frequent use creates a risk for marijuana addiction because it changes the brain. The outcome of brain chemistry changes can show up as slower response time, trouble processing information, other cognitive issues, and more. Not everyone addicted to the drug will experience identical changes or the same intensity of those changes, though. 

The age at which someone begins using marijuana contributes to the risk for addiction. Starting marijuana use at a younger age, under 18, increases that risk. One reason for this occurrence may be that the brain is still developing through adolescence. 

A test of marijuana’s addictive properties can be seen when a heavy user attempts to stop using altogether. Within a week of quitting, a person might experience trouble sleeping, mood changes, changes in appetite, restlessness, cravings, and more. These withdrawal symptoms may also appear in prolonged periods without marijuana use for the heavy user. 

Another way to detect the presence of marijuana addiction is to look at changes in the user’s lifestyle. Marijuana users with an addiction may stop socializing with anyone who criticizes or interferes with their drug use. Being high frequently may inhibit their ability to get or keep a job. 

Can you get addicted to weed?

The perception of who can get addicted to marijuana comes from how popular culture shapes that view. The characters we see in hit TV shows and movies are often young men. Marijuana use may even be depicted as a fun recreational drug with little significant impact on the character’s lives, usually fun-loving “stoners.” 

So, is marijuana addictive for everyone? The truth is, anyone who uses marijuana in any form can become addicted to it through heavy and frequent use of the drug. A person of any age or background can develop a substance use disorder if they use the drug for any reason. A teenager can become addicted, a parent with a family can become addicted, and a retired person can become addicted. 

What ties different types of people together and puts them all at risk for marijuana addiction comes from their mental health. Mental health is a significant factor in consistently using any drug, including marijuana. People who use it may intend to cope with symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. 

Untreated mental health disorders can lead to prolonged marijuana use. The effects felt while using may give a person a brief break from one or more of their symptoms. However, those symptoms return when the effects of marijuana use wear off. 

The accessibility of marijuana through legalization is a debatable topic these days. One fact remains undeniable: more people have access to the drug than ever before. For those who have typically used another substance regularly for years, the appeal for switching to marijuana may be strong. The drug’s availability in easy-to-consume products, like gummies or chocolate, makes it quicker to consume. It also may mean not knowing how much of the drug you’re consuming if a product isn’t properly labeled. 

Do treatment centers offer treatment for marijuana use?

Let’s look at a sample situation for someone trying to quit marijuana independently. Keep in mind this scenario may not apply to you or the person you know who needs treatment. A person who’s smoked marijuana every day for the last ten years may have tried to quit multiple times. Through their efforts and the support of family and friends, they may have managed to avoid drug use for a week. 

Returning to daily marijuana use doesn’t mean the efforts to quit weren’t important. That short-term attempt came after recognizing the negative impact of drug use on their life, work, relationships, and health. It’s a crucial first step.

The reason treatment centers offer help for marijuana use is to begin a sustainable plan to stay off the drug. Quitting any habit alone, especially a longstanding one, is very challenging. It’s not enough to walk away from consuming it for a week at a time. The bigger choice to never use it again requires a much more comprehensive plan that can begin forming while in treatment. 

A residential treatment that begins with a medical detox allows a patient to experience withdrawal under the supervision of medical professionals. Once the treatment program begins, a regimen of individual counseling, group sessions, and recreational activities helps a patient learn how to make healthy choices moving forward. Treatment may also involve specific therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help marijuana users identify their behaviors connected to the drug and develop self-control skills to stay sober. 

Motivational interviewing is another form of treatment used for a person with a marijuana use disorder. The motivation itself must come from the patient in this case. Their willingness to change their drug habits is important. Their level of confidence that change is possible is also a key ingredient in the success of motivational interviewing. Also, their ability to demonstrate a readiness to change a drug behavior communicates sobriety is a top priority.

Origins’ Philosophy

Origins believes treatment must be customized to the individual from the beginning. The ability to personalize care comes from a comprehensive assessment of a patient. A person’s needs aren’t limited to the type of addiction they have either. Needs are also identified by considering age, gender, mobility, medical history, history of drug use, mental health, and more. 

As mentioned above, mental health can be a significant factor in marijuana addiction. At Origins, the comprehensive assessment of each patient includes mental health. It’s essential to understand how symptoms of a mental health issue may be affecting their drug use to achieve the recovery success a patient desires. A substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder should be treated concurrently. 

Origins advocates the use of family as an integral part of the treatment process. The people closest to a patient are encouraged to participate in a family program at the treatment center. This confidential session time can allow loved ones to offer support through staff-guided communication. This kind of program can teach both patients and their family members coping skills to practice as part of a patient’s recovery before transitioning back to their regular lives.

Another area of focus for Origins comes from the understanding that unresolved trauma contributes to marijuana and other drug use. Every member of the Origins treatment team is trained and educated about trauma and its connection to mental health and substance use. Recovery from marijuana addiction and trauma is done simultaneously during treatment. 

Origins emphasizes the need for care beyond an initial treatment program from the first day. Residential treatment is a major step, but it’s the first step of many in sustaining long-term sobriety. Creating a plan for continuing care upon completion of a program increases the chance for success once a patient is home again and living independently. 


Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration.

We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.