Is weed addictive?

YES. Weed is addictive. In fact, becoming addicted to weed is more common than you may thing. We review how you get addicted to weed here.

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Yes. Believe it, or not, weed IS addictive.

Contrary to popular belief weed is both mentally and physically addictive. The longer you abuse weed, the greater your chances of developing an addiction. However, while new research exists to promote the benefits of weed, weed CAN be addictive and can affect your work, social and home life. So just what makes weed addictive? How does marijuana work in the body? And how do you know that you’ve become addicted to weed, or not? We review these questions here and invite your questions about the addictive potential of weed at the end.

What is weed used for?

Weed, a street name for marijuana, is not a substance that is formally regulated by the federal government. However, some state governments have made marijuana legal and weed can be prescribed to treat many medical conditions. While weed is used for medical purposes, use of weed is under the discretion of each individual and his or her physician. People diagnosed with cancer, auto-immune system disorders, and other conditions can efficiently use weed to treat pain, insomnia, nausea, and to stimulate appetite.

Otherwise, weed is considered an illicit drug. In fact, weed is considered the most commonly abused illicit drug in the U.S. with some 17.4 million users. People use weed for the high it creates. But marijuana can creates different highs depending on the strain and the cultivation of the plant matter being used. Weed, like cigarettes and alcohol has become a popular party and relaxation drug and use is on the rise among young populations.

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What is weed made of?

Weed is a greenish-gray mixture of plant material consisting of; stems, seeds, shredded leaves, and flowers which all come from the marijuana plant. All or some of these parts are dried and rolled into joints or packed into bongs and pipes or are cooked in food. Other times weed may be brewed like a tea. The main psychoactive ingredient found in weed is called THC, an abbreviation for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Because of the way that THC reacts on the body and brain, weed is in its own classification of drugs known as cannabis. The THC that is in weed is immediately released into the body when you smoke it, creating different types of highs.  Furthermore, the levels of THC that accumulate in fat cells determine how long does weed stay in your system.

How addictive is weed?

Weed is fairly addictive. The bottom line is that weed can trigger euphoric effect. When people smoke weed, the THC in the marijuana travels directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the nerve endings in the brain. These receptors regulate memory, coordination, higher cognitive function, and the pleasure receptors. Weed also affects the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain and in effect disrupts these various processes, thus producing a high. Over time, overstimulation of the brain can alter CBR receptors, which leads to physical dependence on weed and addiction.

Weed dependence vs. addiction

To understand how you can get addicted to weed, we must first define physical dependence on a drug and compare it with addiction to a drug. To be clear, dependence on weed is different than addiction to weed. So, what is weed dependence?

When there is a presence of any substance in the body, the body naturally alters and changes to accommodate its interactions in the body. This occurs with THC, too. When you are dependent on THC, you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking weed. In fact, withdrawal is a way that the body re-regulates its normal body function and re-establishes balance without the presence of weed. So withdrawal symptoms that occur when you lower weed dosage or stop taking weed completely are a clear sign your body is dependent on weed.

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On the other hand, addiction to weed is characterized by a compulsive need to use weed. The difference between dependence and addiction is usually psychological. Weed users rationalize drug use regardless of any negative consequences. Many times people feel they need weed in order to get through the day or function. And while tolerance and dependence are separate conditions, usually both are present during addiction.

How do you get addicted to weed?

Abuse of marijuana leads to marijuana addiction. In other words, smoking or eating weed to get high puts you at risk of marijuana addiction.  There are several ways you can abuse and get addicted to weed.

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1. Binge smoking

2. Experimenting with weed types and other drugs simultaneously

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3. Using different types of weed for different uses

4. Using larger amounts of weed over longer periods of time

Signs of weed addiction

Sometimes it can be difficult to notice the signs of weed addiction. Many people can use weed for a long time without the presence of withdrawal symptoms or developing a physical dependence of weed on the body. Possible signs of addiction include that following:

  • excessive time and energy getting and recovering from the drug
  • needing to self-medicate
  • persistent desire to quit or cut-down with little success
  • rationalizing drug use
  • using weed regardless of the presence of negative consequences
  • withdrawal symptoms which occur when you cut back or stop using weed

Weed addiction potential questions

Compared to other drugs, weed does take longer to develop dependence and addiction. But then intensity and potency of THC content has increased over the years as it has been in circulation, increasing the addictive potential of weed. Adolescents are much more susceptible to weed addiction as their brains have not fully developed even into the late teen years. When adolescents use weed, they can forever alter neural (nerve) pathways that will never again regain their normal function. Memory and executive functioning are a couple alterations that can occur with the repetitive use of weed.

Do you still have questions about the addiction potential of Weed? Please leave your questions, comments or feedback here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. And if we do not know the answer to your particular Weed question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: HHS: Testimony on Weed
Drug Abuse: Marijuana Abuse
Drug Abuse: How does Marijuana use effect your body and brain
Medline Plus: Marijuana
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. If you think for one moment that weed, pot,marijuana is additive, then you are weak minded, an should do every thing your government say’s is right. Because you Government never lies to you! An if you be leave that then you are really mixed up in the head. An you do not get HIGH! You get real slow an relaxed an just love to eat, you just love every one. So wake up an you don’t have to smoke it, you can eat it . Save your lungs an enjoy life. Munch away an be happy! Thank you so much.

  2. Marijuana is minimally addictive at the physical level. Depending on potency the effects can be very desirable, but withdrawal will be mild on the body. But depending on your personality, it might be very difficult psychologically. Ever watch one of those hoarding shows where the people have panic attacks when they start taking out the garbage?

    It’s more about the individual than the drug. Anything can be abused. If you’re looking for a convenient way to avoid some nasty feelings weed can be a trap. On the other hand, if you’re pretty much OK in life and like to puff a little weed then I don’t see a problem.

    BTW, as far as physical effects I’ve smoked weed off an on my entire life, sometimes enjoying and sometimes abusing, but I am 41 and have never had anything but an immaculate physical. Until three weeks ago I went on a course of an NSAID and developed acute hepatitis from it.

    Do not underestimate weed’s safety profile, because dying in your sleep from heroin or benzo’s or developing hepatitis from a non-narcotic pain pill is not a laughing matter.

  3. Hi John. I was a late bloomer, so to speak, and have used weed off and on throughout my 20’s and 30’s. The only really good thing about weed, as opposed to the other drugs, is that it won’t kill your son or destroy his health unless he develops a very long, heavy habit.

    That said, if my son were using weed I’d be concerned, too. You don’t mention his age but being thrown off track while you’re young can haunt you later in life. Bad grades, arrests, stuff you don’t want following you around.

    I would try to learn as much as you can about his friends and his own personality. Not having friends at all is a bad sign, because weed will make that worse. If he has ‘hippy’ type friends who just use weed, they may actually look down on hard drugs? But if your son seems reckless, angry, defiant or associates with those kinds of people he’s probably at risk to get hooked on something he’ll regret. Also, if he seems depressed or isolates himself he might start looking for pills like opiates or sedatives to cope with his feelings.

    I would start by trying to find out why he’s using the stuff before coming down hard or creating further stress. A good counselor can probably answer a lot of your questions after a few meetings with your son. I also think it’s a little early to give your son the stigma of being an addict. Like I said, find a counselor or someone your son trusts and just learn what he’s really thinking and go from there.

  4. Hello John. Unfortunately, there’s not much you CAN do to make your son quit. You can, however, remove all financial support and intervene informally with your concerns. Schedule an appointment with an addiction specialist for more information and to set up a plan.

  5. my son has started using weed he says its not additive my wife and I are worried sick, we think this could lead to stronger drugs he think’s different what can we do.
    john brown

  6. Hi Hilarious. I was a chronic user of weed for about 7 years. Personally, I think that heavy smokers deep in marijuana addiction are quick to deny that THC and its euphoric effects are addictive. Rather than looking at weed through a rose colored lens, it helps to step back and look at the facts.

  7. Hello hilarious person who said symptoms of marijuana withdrawal has been clinically documented. Yes, duh. But seriously think about the symptoms? Sounds like someone who just started a diet, or is grounded from TV for a week.

    Try stopping soda, sugar, or even something like TV or internet use. You will have way worse symptoms than “getting off the weed”.

    It’s so funny to see so much hate about marijuana from people who drink, smoke cigarettes, or even drink anything with caffeine. You think just because it’s legal it’s better for you? Learn some REAL facts before hating on something you clearly know nothing about.

  8. Hello dolt. Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are clinically documented. While these are mainly psychological (dysphoric mood, irritability)…they exist because marijuana affects the brain and your central nervous system becomes physically dependent on it. Check out this study for more:

  9. Weed itself has no addictive properties. Saying that weed is physically addicting is the same as saying video games, candy, or television is addicting. Please stop spreading false information across the internet.

  10. Completely agree with this article. Once again, society and the media (even most social media) downplays the risks of marijuana. Not only does it seem acceptable because a large amount of people are doing it, the ‘gateway’ aspect of marijuana is severely understated and played. I have far too many friends who have started with weed and progressed to cocaine and heroin. a good site about more detrimental effects of marijuana are in this article too for anyone who is interested: teen-drug-abuse(dot) org/do-you-know(dot)html

  11. You guys always say it’s not additive, but you always go back. My other half did and as good friend of mine said,” he loves you, but he loves Dope more”.

  12. Hellll no weed isn’t addictive. I smoked weed for 10 years and stopped in a heart beat my buddy smoked for 15 years, and he also stopped in a heart beat. I don’t go killing people and cry to get my “fix”. It’s not addictive at all. You can put down a pipe or a joint in no time.

    1. I seriously, 100% agree with you. I have constantly smoked weed and just a few days ago, I stopped so I can began to get my muscle tone back. I haven’t had any withdrawal and I could go back any day and quiet again. It seriously isn’t hard at all. I evade peer pressure from my friends who still smoke and it doesn’t even cross my mind to take a puff until I get my muscle tone back. We even joke about it. It’s 100% possible to stop.

  13. yes i have done that and am waiting one more week to give it a chance I believe my test will be in 10 to 21 days from now which should give me the extra time I need. I see a GP at least once a month to monitor me for other problems so BP and heart rate are usually in line. I do take clonazapam for restless leg syndrome so it makes me sleep at night so no problem as of yet.

    Thanks for the info.

  14. Hi Rob. Depression, anxiety, and trouble sleeping can be present in the weeks after THC withdrawal. If you notice a quicker heart rate and have chest pain, I’d suggest that you schedule a preliminary appointment with a general practitioner. It’s better to be safe and healthy!!!

    It can take 30+ days for THC to clear the urine. In heavy users, some have reported 6-8 weeks before testing clean. You might want to buy some home testing kits and monitor the results one week at a time.

  15. what kinds of effects will i feel after stopping thc for four weeks. Pretty heavy user bmi over 30 trying to clean up before a ua. No cravings but heart racing and mild tightening in chest. I am drinking lots of water and cranberry juice, have tried other flushes in the past with no good results. Any idea how long to my urine will show zero thc? I am also diabetic type 2.

    thanks for the help

  16. My husband is very addicted to pot and has subsequent depression and anxiety. He has allowed the pot to take over his life and it has had dire consequences; he failed out of grad school, our relationship deteriorated to the point where he has now left me and wants a divorce to get a “clean break”, he is unemployed and not looking for work, has withdrawn from almost all friends, and has become the equivalent to an overgrown man-child. He behaves as though he were a teenager even though he’s almost 32 years old. He was once a brilliant, motivated, and social person; now he “self-medicates” daily and has moved in with friends who are still thinking that weed “isn’t addictive”, I’m wondering how long they’ll extend their charity once they realize that things aren’t gonna change, he’s not looking for work. Yes, the weed is a coping mechanism, but it is his addiction of choice; it may not be heroine, but sometimes I wish that it was, we live in California and he has a medical marijuana card that he paid some quack doctor from the newspaper $100 for, if the addiction were heroine then people would not try and claim that it wasn’t harmful, but because it’s California weed can do no wrong…

  17. In my opinion the percentage of weed smokers that could be considered addicted would have to be in the single digit numbers. I’m sure there are some people that just have that mindset that causes them to be an addict to certain things. However, I was a pothead at one time and I never once felt an addiction to it. From the time I was 15 up until I was about 21 I was constantly high and drunk. I’m talking wake up and smoke, go to school and smoke some more, then smoke between every class, all day after school when i got home I would smoke. When there did happen to be days or weeks where I couldn’t get any weed, I never felt withdrawals from it. Ironically, about the time I got old enough to purchase my own alcohol, I had pretty much grown out of that phase and never looked back. I still have friends that are every day smokers and they have always tried to persuade me to get high with them but I have no problem ignoring there constant peer pressure. Occasionally, and I mean once a year, I’ll take a few puffs to get a buzz and still have no urge to go back to it. Same with alcohol, occasionally I’ll have a drink or two and then go a year or two without touching it. Cigarettes, that’s another story, highly addictive.

  18. Hi Jake. The use of marijuana (from personal experience) can affect personal relationships to the point of isolation and work situations to the point of loss of ambition or even loss of work. While the adverse consequences of smoking weed addictively may not be as extreme as opiate drugs, for example, real-life consequences ARE present in the life of a weed smoker. Once you get past the denial, and get off the weed for a while, you can start to really see them.

  19. “weed CAN be addictive and can affect your work, social and home life. So just what makes weed addictive” Could you be more specific in how it affects your work, social and home life? There is withdrawl but since it comes out of your system so slowly it will not physically hurt like opiates. Most of it is mental frustration like a loss of a friend based on my experience. Also not knowing what to do with yourself.

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