Good question! Well, let’s start at the beginning: Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, define addiction as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). Now, taking that definition as the starting point let’s see what some experts have to say, whether marijuana is addictive and if so, how addictive it really is.
Dr. J. Wesley Boyd M.D., Ph.D., states in the magazine Psychology Today that when a chronic marijuana user abruptly stops ingesting the herb he or she does go through a mild physiological withdrawal with subtle symptoms ranging from irritability and a mildly elevated pulse rate. These physical changes are so moderate and even tepid, that they are hard to observe many times and they are at the low end of the withdrawal spectrum. The harsh and very real and very ugly and sick physiological symptoms heroin and opioid users and alcohol abusers experience when they stop using are at the other more sever withdrawal end of that same spectrum. Their pain is real – too real.
Dr. Boyd also says that addiction can also be defined as “behaviors that are compulsive, partially out of control or worse, and often escalating in severity and intensity.” He believes people can indeed become addicted to marijuana, even medical marijuana, but the “vast majority of marijuana users are neither addicted nor almost addicted to cannabis. Their use doesn’t escalate over time, they can enjoy its effects without endangering some major element of their lives.”
A Time Magazine article addressed marijuana addiction and suggests that since “marijuana cessation is not linked with such severe symptoms, the drug isn’t seen as physically addictive. And considering that most people view physical addiction as uncontrollable, but psychological addiction as manageable with proper willpower, marijuana tends not to be regarded as addictive in general.”
Now, some studies conclude that about 10% of marijuana users become addicts and others like NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) say that 30% of cannabis users are addicted to the herb. They call it marijuana use disorder and they associate that with dependence on cannabis when the user experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop ingesting cannabis.
So, is there a definite conclusion about marijuana addiction? It seems that if you take all the information and boil it down there might be a couple of common threads connecting all of them even though their numbers don’t match up. The two main connecting threads are: if Marijuana addiction exists then it is definitely not as severe as coming off of other substances and there is very little, if any real physical suffering. What do you think?