This post was originally published on July 24, 2014.
Ah, the good old marijuana addiction debate. It’s been a source of controversy and dueling opinions from doctors, psych sorts and tokers for years now. So, for once and for all, can someone be physically addicted to weed, or not?
Probably so, If Someone has the -Ism
According to this story on Healthline, it depends on the person. Most folks can, it says, use pot every once in a while and not get addicted. But apparently that’s not true for everyone—especially people with predispositions for mental illness, stress, or other addictions.
One man who was interviewed, the middle-aged George, recalled withdrawing from his regular-ish weed habit with absolutely no trouble or complications. “It’s recreational,” he says, believing that most folks, like him, can totally manage to have just one drink at the end of a stressful day so they should be able to do the same with weed. When George decided to quit smoking pot because of other health issues, he said it was totally NBD—he experienced no physical addiction or withdrawal effects to speak of.
But not every regular pot user is quite so lucky. Per a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “about 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become abusers.” And if you expand those parameters to include outright marijuana addiction or dependency, the rate could actually rise more than 20 percent (that’s 4.5 million users). Genes, as usual, can be a good predictor of who’s at risk for pot addiction.
Maybe Not a Detox-Worthy Addiction
I’ve been around plenty of daily pot smokers, both in college and way beyond. Some of these people seemed addicted to the stuff, though I don’t know if it would qualify as a physical addiction; to me it looked much more like an emotional or mental addiction. They just got so accustomed to and dependent on weed’s mellow, anxiety-lessening effects that it seemed like they couldn’t imagine not turning to it for help decompressing or quieting their minds at the end of a stressful day. But ultimately, who cares whether the addiction is emotional or chemical? The point is, alas, that not everyone can be George and put down the pot pipe easily.