Marijuana addiction continues to be a topic of debate worldwide, despite research that proves most fears to be overstated.
All substance addictions, including marijuana, are defined by guidelines set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).
Even still, marijuana addiction, also known as cannabis dependence, is both widely debated and widely misunderstood.
Here are 4 myths about marijuana addiction that should’ve been debunked long ago.
Myth #1 — It’s not addictive
Despite what some may argue, marijuana use can qualify as an addiction under currently accepted medical guidelines.
Under the DSM-IV, marijuana addiction is defined according to general criteria for all types of substance dependence. Admittedly, the definition includes a range of scenarios and may be subjective at times.
But as one example: If you’ve ever, all at once, happened to experience (i) tolerance, (ii) difficulty cutting back, and (iii) spent “considerable time” trying to obtain marijuana, then you would’ve met the criteria for marijuana addiction. Withdrawal symptoms – such as insomnia, cravings and loss of appetite – can also be a sign of addiction.
Overall, a study conducted by NIDA researchers concluded that 9% of people who ever try marijuana will become addicted to it at some point.
Myth #2 — It’s highly addictive
9% might seem like a lot, but it really isn’t when you consider the addiction potential of other popular substances: 15% for alcohol, 17% for cocaine, 23% for heroin and 32% for tobacco.
Not to mention, while some may experience difficulty when trying to quit marijuana, the withdrawal symptoms are nowhere near that of heroin or tobacco.
Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that marijuana is significantly less addictive than many recreational substances that are legal today.
Myth #3 — Teen addiction is soaring
Marijuana addiction among teens is a major focus of debate, and is often cited as a reason to keep marijuana illegal.
There’s two problems with this notion, however. For one, many of the most negative claims are also the most scientifically debatable, including statistics like ‘1 in 6 minors who try marijuana become addicted’ and ‘60% of teenagers in rehab are marijuana addicts’.
Secondly, most agree that teenagers shouldn’t be getting marijuana in the first place. Unfortunately, an illegally-run industry tends to make it easier for high school kids to get marijuana – yet harder for responsible adults.
Myth #4 — Addiction is always bad
So marijuana isn’t as addictive as it’s made out to be, but is it even that harmful for those who are addicted?
Besides the lack of long-term health problems, frequent marijuana use can sometimes be an effective form of self-medication.
In fact, studies suggest that people with hard-to-identify conditions like ADHD and depression may treat themselves with a daily dose of marijuana, while at the same time mistaking it for a bad drug habit.
For those who realize marijuana’s versatility as a medicine, there’s perhaps only one thing that makes a daily marijuana habit different from a treatment regimen of prescription pills: One is legal, and the other is not.