You can become psychologically addicted to just about anything. However, with psychological dependence, cravings are more mental than physical.
On the other hand, psychological dependence can still take a toll on the body. After all, mind and body have a close relationship; what happens to one almost always affects the other.
So what about marijuana? Can you become addicted to smoking marijuana?
Over the years, medical researchers and professionals have argued over whether or not marijuana is actually addictive. Pro-weed activists assert that marijuana isn’t addictive while those on the other side caution against legalization for fear that it’ll lead to higher rates of addiction. To further blur the lines, both sides can point to research that backs them up.
Marijuana is more a case of psychological dependence, particularly among younger users.
In the past, lack of evidence meant there couldn’t be a clear consensus as to whether marijuana is addictive, at least in the conventional sense. But recent evidence that’s emerged seems to indicate that marijuana addiction is more a case of psychological dependence, particularly among children and adolescents.
And it’s right here where we endeavor to take a closer look.
Marijuana addiction occurs at a rate of 10 percent to 30 percent of users, meaning that between 10 and 30 percent of marijuana users will exhibit signs of psychological dependence on marijuana. So if you’re someone who uses marijuana or someone who’s considering using marijuana, then be aware that there is, in fact, some risk of becoming addicted to marijuana. Yet marijuana addiction is less about physical effects and more about whether marijuana use negatively affects one’s daily life.
Ultimately, a person is addicted when he or she continues to use the substance regularly in spite of the adverse effects.
Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
Withdrawal is one of the classic signs of addiction—adverse mental and physical effects that occur when you don’t have access to the chemical on which you’ve become dependent.
Most people don’t know what it’s like to experience withdrawal from alcohol or illicit drugs. However, a form of withdrawal many people have, in fact, experienced is caffeine withdrawal. Because even though it’s entirely legal and occurs naturally in a variety of plants and consumer products, caffeine is known to be addictive.
We might compare marijuana addiction to caffeine addiction in a couple of key ways. For example, people experiencing coffee addiction feel they can barely function without their morning coffee; without caffeine, they move slower, are more irritable, and they struggle to conjure the energy to go about an ordinary day. Over time, they build up a tolerance and eventually need three mugs of coffee to get the same effect as one.
Marijuana addiction follows a similar template to caffeine addiction.
This process of increasing one’s tolerance helps to facilitate the addiction since the gradual nature of tolerance allows the body to become accustomed to a higher baseline level of caffeine. Marijuana addiction follows a very similar template to caffeine addiction.
When a daily marijuana user goes without smoking or consuming cannabis for an extended period, that individual will start to experience a number of psychological withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Nightmares and other sleep disturbance
- Decrease in appetite and sudden weight loss
- Discomfort and general malaise
- Abdominal pain
Someone experiencing marijuana withdrawal may notice these symptoms beginning about a week after he or she last used marijuana (unlike caffeine, withdrawal, which manifests first thing in the morning). These symptoms peak within 10 days before declining in severity over another 10 to 20 days.
Of course, the length, severity, and type of symptoms all vary by individual. Every journey to quit is different.
Withdrawal symptoms will end if the user smokes marijuana again as the marijuana use satisfies what the mind is craving. This sudden relief incentivizes continued smoking, which is easier and more enjoyable than fighting through the discomfort. In such cases, the individual is prioritizing immediate physical comfort over the negative consequences marijuana has on his or her life.
In addition to withdrawal symptoms, increased tolerance, and trouble quitting, some other common symptoms include:
- Using in a risky situation, like before driving a car
- Ignoring friends, families, and other enjoyable activities to use
- Attention, memory, and learning problems
These behaviors damage the user’s professional and social life and can have long-term implications for educational and career opportunities. It also has marked effects on the structure of the brain and the ability to learn when used early in life and affects the brain’s structure regardless of the user’s age.
Addiction can have lethal consequences. For this reason, it’s important to understand the risks before using or continuing to use marijuana, just as it is with alcohol, caffeine, or any other drug (legal or illegal).
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