Can Medical Marijuana Lead to Addiction?

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Despite this definition of marijuana, there is some evidence that the drug can be therapeutic. It can help with pain management and is often used as palliative care for chronic conditions like cancer. Currently, 23 states allow recreational or medical use of marijuana, including Pennsylvania.

If you’re considering medical marijuana as a treatment, one of your concerns may be the possibility of addiction. Here’s what we know about the potential for addiction with this drug. As always, you should talk to your doctor to determine which treatment is best for you.

Marijuana Can Be Abused

The definition of drug abuse is using a substance contrary to its intended use, such as taking cold medicine when you are not sick, or using a substance to the point where it interferes with your life. Even when you are taking a drug as prescribed, you can cross over into abuse by taking more than the recommended dose.

Drug abuse interferes with relationships and causes a person to perform poorly in work or other tasks. Not everyone who abuses a substance is addicted, but abuse often leads to addiction. Using marijuana to the point where it interferes with your relationships and obligations, or in higher doses than your doctor has prescribed, constitutes abuse.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Addiction goes beyond abuse since you become physically and mentally dependent on a substance. Symptoms include the need to use more of the drug to get the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the drug.

Under this definition, marijuana has the potential to be addictive. Although some people are able to use this drug and then quit with minimal negative effects, others find themselves dependent on the substance.

Physical Addiction to Marijuana

Physically, your body will adapt to the presence of marijuana in your system. Over time, you will have to smoke more to get the desired effect. Long-term users may have undesirable symptoms when they stop using marijuana, including:

  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Fever
  • Chills

Psychological Effects of Marijuana

Psychological addiction refers to the emotional effects associated with drug use. This could include:

  • Cravings
  • Anxiety when trying to stop using the substance
  • Irritability or mood swings when not using the substance
  • Obsessing over using the substance or obtaining it
  • Continued use of the substance, even though the person is experiencing multiple negative effects

Although most marijuana users do not experience psychological addiction symptoms, these symptoms can often be the most challenging. Some users may even experience paranoia or hallucinations while using the drug.

Interestingly, not everyone who uses marijuana will become addicted. The withdrawal from marijuana is usually much milder than compared with other Schedule I drugs, which is why some people don’t believe that marijuana is addictive. It’s important to understand that there is a very real risk for addiction with marijuana, even when it is prescribed by a healthcare provider. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have, especially if you have a family history of addiction.

What to Do If You Become Addicted

If you or a loved one is concerned about a potential marijuana addiction, contact Rehab After Work to get your life back on track. We offer level of care assessments to determine if an addiction is present, and what treatment would be most appropriate. Call us at (610) 644-6464 to learn more.