Is Cannabis Addictive?

By David Jenison

What is addiction? The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) utilized more than 70 experts over four years to answer this question, and a public policy statement published in 2011 provided the consensus definition: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.”

Prohibitionists condemn cannabis as addictive, but does consuming the plant regularly lead to a chronic disease of the brain reward system that physically alters dopaminergic pathways and motivates a pathological pursuit of substance reward? Moreover, is the disease primary, and do cannabis addicts experience punishing cravings that demand relief? These symptoms can emerge in a small number of cannabis consumers, but it can also happen playing Candy Crush. This is why a deeper grasp of addiction and dependence is necessary to understand the widely different definitions of addiction. To put it another way, Time magazine encapsulated the problem in 2010 with the following headline: “Is Marijuana Addictive? It Depends How You Define Addiction.”

How Cannabis Affects Anxiety and Paranoia

Is Cannabis Medicine?

What Are Terpenes?

Psychological Addiction to Cannabis

Physical Addiction to Cannabis

Myth Busting: 420 Edition

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

Harry Anslinger: The Godfather of Cannabis Prohibition

Anxiety: THC vs. CBD

Wacky Wiley

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

Physical Dependence on Cannabis

Should Cannabis be Legal?

What is Hemp?

The Problem with Cannabis Studies