Is marijuana addictive yes or no?

Is marijuana addictive yes or no?

When it comes to cannabis, one question often pops up: is it addictive? Although many consumers say no way, there are some that will tell you it is. As it turns out, there are a few reasons why someone could become addicted to marijuana. The chances are slim. However, the possibility is very much real.

According to a study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 9 percent of cannabis users will become abusers.[1] Moreover, another studie suggests higher numbers, especially among individuals who are more likely to develop dependency.

On the contrary, there are also millions of people that use cannabis and benefit from doing so without becoming addicted. From controlling anxiety to relieving pain, marijuana is very much medicinal. So, who is likely to become addicted to cannabis and why?


According to Dr. Alex Stalcup of New Leaf Treatment Center, one of the strongest predictors of addiction is genes.[2] In fact, there are studies of identical twins brought up from different families that confirm this speculation.[3] To point out, they have higher rates of addiction co-occurring than fraternal twins raised apart. In other words, if one twin becomes addicted, the other is at greater risk to become addicted as well.

However, it turns out that ties to the family can help prevent addiction. Carl Hart, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Columbia University, mentions some criteria that he looks for when it comes to addiction: “When we look at the criteria for addiction, it has a lot to do with people tempering their behavior. It has a lot to do with responsibility skills ...[4]

It’s not perfect, but when you look at the people who are addicted, and you look at people who have jobs and families, they have responsibilities, they’re plugged into their societies, they have a social network, the addiction rates within those kind of groups are dramatically decreased from people who are not plugged in with jobs, families, social networks.”

Furthermore, those who aren't addicted often have options as well. During an interview with Healthline, Gantt Galloway, Pharm.D., executive and research director of the New Leaf Treatment Center, and senior scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, said,

“Most of us have a lot of choice in life of things that make us feel good.”

“Those who have fewer choices, who perhaps don’t have as rich a set of social interactions because their family life is difficult or because they have emotional problems that are stopping them from forming close friendships ... those people may find drugs such as marijuana more attractive and be at greater risk for addiction.”

"For a lot of individuals, marijuana is pleasurable, reinforcing, and reliable," Galloway added. "If you’re talking about someone who has a chaotic home situation, someone who isn’t doing well in school, who isn’t getting praise for good school performance, those people may be at higher risk to use marijuana and to have problems with it.”

As a matter of fact, the theory of having choices can help prevent addiction is supported by animal studies. What they have shown, in particular, is that when you put rats into a box with a lever that releases drugs like opiates or cocaine, rats will continuously push on the lever. However, when you bring them into a "rat park" full of toys and a couple of rat pals, they prefer drug-free water over the laced water.

Another factor worth noting is mental illness, which plays a great role in addiction risk. Mental illness has both genetic and environmental causes. Dr. Stalcup also confirms the idea,

“Drugs work very well, at first, for mentally ill people. If you’re anxious, it’ll go away with a couple of hits, a beer. It’s like magic. But then, the tolerance sets in. So, not only do they need to drink more to relieve the anxiety, but every single time they try to stop, the underlying anxiety comes back worse. We conceptualize it as a biological trap. It works at first, it turns on you, it stops working, and then you still have a problem."

“Stress [also] responds very well to drug use. The same trap occurs. Someone is working hard, they come home, they have a few drinks. And it works. They can relax, chill out, not worry about the day. After a few years of that — and the fuse can be very long — now they’re drinking three or four drinks after work.

Eventually, they’re having a bottle of wine and a couple of drinks, and the stress just isn’t managed like it was before. Now, they depend on alcohol not to get more stressed.”

Dr. Stalcup also says that about 50-60 percent of cannabis abusers that his clinic treats have some form of mental illness. For the most part, he sees individuals with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD.

For those with PTSD, cannabis helps prevent the nightmares that many sufferers experience. Moreover, PTSD frequently appears from yet another predictor of addiction: trauma. Especially, a sexual trauma that occurs at a young age. According to Dr. Stalcup,

“Trauma in general, sexual trauma specifically, is a grossly underappreciated and potent risk factor for addiction.”


All in all, becoming addicted to cannabis is possible. However, it's something that can take months and even years to develop, unlike dependence to opiates. Equally important, you should always recognize your relationship with cannabis and the fact that someone else's experience may differ from yours.

Although there are individuals more likely to become addicted to marijuana, such as those with a mental illness, there are still people who use cannabis and have no problems quitting or cutting back. The simplest way to discover if you're addicted to marijuana or not is to attempt not using for a period.

If you find this amount of time challenging, you may be addicted. However, you may also discover that it's easier than you thought.


  1. ^ National Institute on Drug Abuse, Is marijuana addictive?, retrieved December-24-2018
  2. ^ New Leaf Treatment Center, The neuroscience of addiction, retrieved December-24-2018
  3. ^ National Institute on Drug Abuse, Twin studies help define the role of genes in vulnerability to drug abuse, retrieved December-24-2018
  4. ^ Healthline, Marijuana can be addictive: who gets hooked and why, retrieved December-24-2018