More and more Americans are becoming accepting of cannabis, or marijuana, use. In fact, a recent Pew Research Center study revealed that 60% of Americans support the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, and only 8% of study respondents indicated that they believed marijuana should not be legal for either form of use. 

With the majority of the public supporting recreational marijuana use, it may seem as if cannabis is a harmless drug. While some people may use it recreationally and never develop an addiction, the reality is that cannabis use can become problematic for others. Given the acceptance of recreational cannabis use, some people may be unsure of whether their own consumption of the drug is problematic or falls in line with what is typical for the rest of the population.

For those who develop problems with cannabis use, there are ways to determine whether you might be addicted to the drug. Ultimately, only a trained addiction specialist, such as a licensed clinical social worker or a physician practicing addiction medicine, can diagnose a cannabis addiction, but some warning signs can help you to determine if you might need treatment for addiction to this drug. 

How common is cannabis addiction?

Before diving into the ways to tell if you’re addicted to cannabis, it is helpful to understand just how common cannabis addiction is. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data, 1.8 percent of the population aged 12 and above has a cannabis use disorder within a given year. While this number seems relatively small, evaluating the addiction rate among cannabis users places it into context. According to a 2020 study published in Addictive Behaviors, 22 percent of cannabis users meet the criteria for a cannabis use disorder, which is the clinical term for an addiction. Among younger users who use either daily or weekly, 33 percent are dependent upon cannabis. While a small percentage of the general population becomes addicted to cannabis, what can be determined from these research findings is that about one-fifth of people who use cannabis will develop a cannabis use disorder. The risk is even higher for younger users who engage in regular use. 

Signs of Cannabis Addiction

If you’re worried you may have developed a cannabis addiction, the symptoms of a cannabis use disorder can help you determine if you’re addicted to cannabis. A cannabis use disorder is a clinical diagnosis that addiction professionals use when someone is addicted to the drug. Essentially, a cannabis use disorder exists when a person continues to use cannabis despite negative consequences arising from their drug use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the symptoms of a substance use disorder are as follows:

  • Using larger quantities of a drug than intended
  • Using a drug even when it is physically hazardous
  • Continued drug use even when it results in difficulty fulfilling duties at work, school, or home
  • Continuing to use a drug even when it causes or worsens a physical or mental health problem
  • Tolerance, as evidenced by the need to use larger quantities of a drug to get the same desired effects
  • Demonstrating withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug
  • Continued drug use even when it causes problems with a person’s relationships 
  • Being unable to cut back on drug use
  • Spending a significant amount of time using drugs or recovering from drug use
  • Giving up other activities in favor of drug use
  • Strong drug cravings 

Based upon the above diagnostic criteria, you are likely addicted to cannabis if you show some of the following behaviors:

  • You continue to use cannabis, even though it has resulted in you being unproductive at work.
  • You are spending most of your free time either using cannabis or sleeping because you are recovering from using cannabis the night before. 
  • You are not spending time with your family or tending to your children because you spend so much time using cannabis.
  • You have tried to stop using cannabis but find that you are unable to do so. 
  • You intend to use only a small amount of cannabis, such as one joint, but then end up smoking multiple joints and spending your entire evening high. 
  • You no longer spend time with friends or engage in hobbies, such as traveling or going to the gym, because you would rather use cannabis. 

Keep in mind that what separates casual cannabis use from addiction is that someone who uses casually may occasionally use the drug, but still fulfill duties and work and home, and not experience any serious negative consequences from drug use. On the other hand, if you have a cannabis addiction, the drug will become the center of your life, to the point that you give up other activities and responsibilities in favor of cannabis use. You may also be willing to continue using, even if you experience serious consequences like health problems or losing a job.

Treatment for Cannabis Addiction

If you demonstrate signs of cannabis addiction and cannot stop using on your own, it is probably time to reach out for treatment. Your recovery from cannabis addiction will likely involve participating in behavioral treatments, such as therapy, to help you learn ways to manage stress without using drugs and to help you address any underlying issues that have led to substance abuse.

For men in the Los Angeles area, Ethos is a therapeutic community that can support you during your recovery from cannabis abuse. We can offer recovery support services, as well as one-on-one peer mentoring. We also offer a structured sober living residence to those in recovery. Contact us today to learn how we can support you during your recovery journey.