Addiction (Marijuana or Cannabis Use Disorder)
Some people who use marijuana will develop marijuana use disorder, meaning that they are unable to stop using marijuana even though it’s causing health and social problems in their lives.
- One study estimated that approximately 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder.1
- Another study estimated that people who use cannabis have about a 10% likelihood of becoming addicted.2
- The risk of developing marijuana use disorder is greater in people who start using marijuana during youth or adolescence and who use marijuana more frequently.3
The following are signs of marijuana use disorder 4:
- Using more marijuana than intended
- Trying but failing to quit using marijuana
- Spending a lot of time using marijuana
- Craving marijuana
- Using marijuana even though it causes problems at home, school, or work
- Continuing to use marijuana despite social or relationship problems.
- Giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.
- Using marijuana in high-risk situations, such as while driving a car.
- Continuing to use marijuana despite physical or psychological problems.
- Needing to use more marijuana to get the same high.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping marijuana use.
People who have marijuana use disorder may also be at a higher risk of other negative consequences, such as problems with attention, memory, and learning.
Some people who have marijuana use disorder may need to use more and more marijuana or greater concentrations of marijuana over time to experience a “high.” The greater the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana (in other words, the concentration or strength), the stronger the effects the marijuana may have on the brain.5,6 The amount of THC in marijuana has increased over the past few decades.6
In a study of cannabis research samples over time, the average delta-9 THC (the main form of THC in the cannabis plant) concentration almost doubled, from 9% in 2008 to 17% in 2017.7 Products from dispensaries often offer much higher concentrations than seen in this study. In a study of products available in online dispensaries in 3 states with legal non-medical adult marijuana use, the average THC concentration was 22%, with a range of 0% to 45%.8 In addition, some methods of using marijuana (for example, dabbing and vaping concentrates) may deliver very high levels of THC to the user.6,9
Researchers do not yet know the full extent of the consequences when the body and brain are exposed to high concentrations of THC or how recent increases in concentrations affect the risk of someone developing marijuana use disorder.6
- Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of marijuana use disorders in the United States between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242.
- Lopez-Quintero C, de los Cobos JP, Hasin DS, et al. Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2011;115(1-2):120-130.
- Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: association with recent use and age. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2008;92(1-3):239-247.
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed). Washington, DC; 2013.
- Freeman, T, Winstock, A (2015). Examining the profile of high-potency cannabis and its association with severity of cannabis dependenceexternal icon. Psychological medicine. 45(15), 3181-3189.
- Bidwell LC, York Williams SL, Mueller RL, Bryan AD, Hutchison KE. (2018). Exploring cannabis concentrates on the legal market: User profiles, product strength, and health-related outcomesexternal icon. Addictive Behaviors Reports. 2018;8:102-106.
- Chandra S, Radwan MM, Majumdar CG, Church JC, Freeman TP, ElSohly MA. New trends in cannabis potency in USA and Europe during the last decade (2008-2017). European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. 2019;269(1):5-15.
- Cash MC, Cunnane K, Fan C, Romero-Sandoval EA. Mapping cannabis potency in medical and recreational programs in the United States. PloS One. 2020;15(3):e0230167.
- Raber JC, Elzinga S, Kaplan C. Understanding dabs: contamination concerns of cannabis concentrates and cannabinoid transfer during the act of dabbingexternal icon. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences. 2015;40(6):797-803.