With the mass spread of legalized marijuana and the growing population of its users, many people all around are asking the same question, is marijuana addiction real? Well, the reason why many people may misunderstand or have obtained false information is that the answer isn’t an easy one. But, by learning hard truths about this substance and its effects, we can help those struggling with marijuana abuse live the lives they so desperately want and need.

Answering the Question, Is Marijuana Addiction Real?

Is marijuana addiction real? Yes. Because of its limited research, legality, and the possibility for use in the medical field, there is much literature that claims that marijuana addiction isn’t real or even possible. Yes, it’s true that it’s rare for individuals to develop an addiction to marijuana. But, it’s far from true that it isn’t possible, or even a problem amongst our country’s population. According to the National Institutes of Health, addiction is defined as a disease that leads to compelling behaviors of continued drug use even after consequences of drug use are present. The NIH also records that about 10% of regular marijuana users become addicted, and individuals who start using the substance during adolescence are more susceptible to developing an addiction.

Psychological vs. Physical Addiction

Here is where the confusion lies and the controversy begins; between physical and psychological addiction to marijuana. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is both physically and psychologically addictive.   

A physical addiction is when the body forms a dependence on a substance, meaning that it does not function properly on its own without the addictive drug present. Because addictive drugs affect our neurological communication systems, after heavy and long-term use, these communications adapt to only occur when the abused drug is administered. This, in turn, creates adverse reactions when the drug is not used. These reactions are otherwise classified as withdrawal symptoms, which can include sweating, nausea, shakes, fever, psychosis, hallucinations, racing heartbeat, seizures, and more. It’s falsely acknowledged that because the withdrawal symptoms of a marijuana addict are minimal, that the drug is not physically addictive. But, physical dependence of marijuana is absolutely possible, and withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, mood swings, anxiety, loss of appetite, headaches, and lack of concentration occur in those addicted when the substance is not used.

A psychological addiction is what marijuana abuse and addiction are usually classified as. Most, if not all, addictive substances can cause a psychological addiction. When an individual is psychologically addicted to a substance, they will have mental and compulsive thoughts to use the drug, even if the previous use has caused serious negative consequences. Psychological addiction can continue for much longer than physical addiction and may be more aggressive as the mind is a very real opponent of recovery. Those psychologically addicted to marijuana will experience intense cravings to use anywhere from a few weeks to a year after detox.

“Marijuana isn’t addictive but it is a gateway drug”

Undoubtedly, almost everyone in North America has heard marijuana being described as a “gateway drug”. A gateway drug is one which encourages or increases the risk of a user to utilize other addictive drugs in congruence with it. Although there are individuals who cross-use marijuana with other addictive drugs, according to the NIH, most don’t. In fact, the drugs that should be considered gateway drugs because they are the most utilized in congruence with other addictive substances are alcohol and nicotine. Instead of spreading false fallacies about the most widely used drug in our country, we need to address what it really is. An addictive, habit forming, and singularly harmful substance that leads to dependence and addiction in 10% of its users.

Is Marijuana Addiction Real in Your Life?

Have you ever tried to quit using marijuana and have experienced either psychological or physical withdrawal symptoms, you may have developed a dependence on marijuana. More often than not, individuals who discover that they may be dependent on marijuana want to, and try to stop using, but turn back to using when withdrawal symptoms get too severe. This is where treatment can help. With innovative therapies and a plan for recovery, individuals struggling with marijuana abuse and dependence can seek the safety and freedom that is a life free of addiction. If you think that you or a loved one could benefit from marijuana addiction treatment, please give the Discovery Institute Drug and Alcohol Services a call today at 888-616-7177.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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