Is Marijuana Really Addictive? The Research is in.

Is Marijuana Really Addictive? The Research is in.

Is Marijuana Really Addictive? The Research is in.

Marijuana use can result in the development of a problem with the drug, referred to as a marijuana use disorder, which in severe cases can manifest as addiction. According to recent studies, 30% of marijuana users may suffer from some form of marijuana use disorder. Sober living individuals who begin using marijuana before reaching the age of 18 have a four-to-seven-fold increased risk of developing a marijuana use disorder compared to adults.

Marijuana use problems are frequently accompanied with dependence—the experience of withdrawal symptoms when a person in recovery stops using the drug. Individuals who use marijuana often typically report irritability, mood and sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or different forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and can persist up to two weeks. Marijuana dependence develops when the brain adapts to high doses of the drug by decreasing synthesis and sensitivity to the brain’s own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

Marijuana use disorder develops into addiction when the sober living  individual is unable to abstain from using the drug despite the fact that it impairs numerous parts of his or her life. Estimates of marijuana addiction are contentious, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use frequently utilize dependency as a proxy for addiction, despite the fact that one can be reliant on marijuana without being addicted. According to this research, approximately 9% of those who use marijuana develop an addiction, which increases to approximately 17% for those who begin in their teens.

In 2015, over 4.0 million individuals in the United States matched the diagnostic criteria for marijuana use disorder;3 138,000 sought treatment for their marijuana usage voluntarily.

Potency Gaining

Potency of marijuana has progressively increased over the last few decades, as seen by captured samples. In the early 1990s, confiscated marijuana samples contained an average THC level of less than 4%. It exceeded 15% in 2018. 29 Concentrated marijuana can have significantly more THC (see Marijuana Concentrates DrugFacts). The increasing potency of marijuana, combined with the increased use of high-THC concentrates, raises concerns that the consequences of marijuana use today may be worse than in the past, particularly for those who are new to marijuana use and for young sober living people whose brains are still developing (see “What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?“).

Researchers do not yet understand the full extent of the repercussions of high THC exposure to the body and brain (particularly the developing brain), or whether the recent increase in emergency department visits by those testing positive for marijuana is connected to increased potency. It is also uncertain to what extent individuals in addiction recovery compensate for greater potency by reducing their use or smoking differently. Recent research suggests that while experienced sober living users can change their smoking and inhaling amounts based on the perceived intensity of the marijuana they are taking, they are unable to fully compensate for differences in potency.


Learn More

Individuals in recovery can also look for sober houses, structured group homes, and sober living at Sober House Directory. Anyone interested in learning more about Vanderburgh House and its mission can visit Vanderburgh Communities.



NIDA. (2021, April 13th). Is marijuana addictive? Marijuana Research Report. Retrieved August 18th, 2021,from