Is Cannabis Addictive?

I want to try to start cannabis use, but I'm afraid. Is cannabis addictive?

The simple answer is that many people and organizations say that about 9% of the population will be ‘addicted’ to cannabis.

The longer more nuanced answer is that most institutions and doctors will not say it is ‘addictive’ rather that people may have a ‘cannabis use disorder‘. The question really lies in what addiction is. Many people will say addiction is a chemical dependence in which cannabis is not addictive. Other people and organizations will say it is rather a psychological manifestation, such as an addiction to gambling. It is important to note that if a person starts using before the age of 18 they are 4-7 times as likely to develop a dependence.

Cannabis Use Disorders

Cannabis use disorders are tested using a standardized list of 11 criteria. It is subjective to say who has a disorder or not. Some might say if you have 2 from the list, others say you must have all 11.

The 11 indicators are (this list was taken from Medscape’s article):

  1. Cannabis is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control cannabis use.
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain cannabis, use cannabis, or recover from its effects.
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use cannabis.
  5. Recurrent cannabis use results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Continued cannabis use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of cannabis.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of cannabis use.
  8. Recurrent cannabis use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  9. Cannabis use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by cannabis.
  10. Tolerance, is defined by either a (1) need for markedly increased cannabis to achieve intoxication or desired effect or (2) markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either (1) the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for cannabis or (2) cannabis is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

Cannabis is used medically by many people as well as recreationally without dependence but there will always be a subset of the population that develops a ‘cannabis disorder’.

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