When did you become addicted to marijuana?

Am I addicted to cannabis?

Around every third young adult has consumed cannabis at some point. Most of them rarely do it, but some do it regularly, some of them even on a daily basis. But does smoking weed every day mean automatically being dependent? How do I know that I am addicted?

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“It's just grass,” Patrick had told himself, “it's not something like heroin or cocaine”. For a long time Patrick could not imagine that cannabis could be addictive. “But I also cut five grams away on a day off.” When trying to limit smoking, he got sleep problems, sweaty hands and became aggressive. Ultimately, he had to admit that he was addicted.

Contrary to what some people believe, cannabis can be addictive. Physical withdrawal symptoms, as Patrick found them out in himself, can, but need not, occur in the case of cannabis addiction. The frequency of consumption is also not a sure indicator of dependence. More important than the number of joints or bongs smoked is the question of which functions the weed has taken on and which consequences the cannabis consumption has already had.

Smoking weed has a function in everyday life

Unlike drugs like heroin or cocaine, the effects of addiction to cannabis are less noticeable. Many long-time stoners initially only consumed cannabis among friends. Smoking weed, it seems, is normal. The others do too. After all, every third adult in Germany has tried cannabis at some point. But while most people leave or quit smoking weed collectively because other things become more important in life, some people become intoxicated with cannabis.

More and more often they smoke weed alone, they withdraw into their own four walls. As the fun factor decreases, smoking weed takes on more and more of the function of dealing with unpleasant feelings such as boredom, fear, difficulty falling asleep or other problems. Those affected are increasingly tempted to ignore difficult everyday situations and the associated unpleasant feelings or thoughts by smoking weed. And the longer cannabis is used in everyday life, the less people can imagine that they can live well without smoking weed. Is that addiction already?

11 criteria for substance use disorder

A number of criteria define when a person can speak of a dependency. An important tool for diagnosing addiction is the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short. In its 2013 updated version, the DSM does not use the term addiction, but speaks of a substance use disorder. This can be determined using the following 11 criteria:

  1. Continued use of cannabis even though important commitments at work, school, or at home can no longer be fulfilled because of the use
  2. Repeated use of cannabis in situations in which the use may pose a physical hazard
  3. Repeated use of cannabis despite constant or repeated social or interpersonal problems
  4. Development of tolerance, which is characterized by an increase in the dose or a reduced effect
  5. Withdrawal symptoms or their avoidance through substance consumption
  6. Cannabis use in larger quantities or for longer than planned
  7. Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to control cannabis use
  8. High time expenditure for the procurement, the consumption and the recovery from the effect
  9. Abandonment or reduction of important activities in favor of cannabis use
  10. Continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological problems
  11. Craving, i.e. the strong desire or the urge to consume cannabis

To meet at least two of the above characteristics within a period of 12 months to, the substance use disorder is deemed to have been met. From four or more criteria, one can speak of a serious problem.

Restriction of quality of life

Dependent cannabis use usually also means a reduction in the quality of life, even if many users are reluctant to admit this. While occasional cannabis use is unlikely to have a significant impact on quality of life, the situation is different with cannabis addiction.

In a scientific review it could be shown that the quality of life decreases the more often people smoke weed. The highest losses in quality of life were recorded among cannabis addicts. It cannot be said with certainty whether cannabis is responsible for a poor quality of life or whether frustrated people are more likely to smoke weed. However, it can be assumed that heavy smoking weed does not improve the quality of life. This means that dependent stoners buy the short-term good feelings of high cannabis with long-term loss of their quality of life.

Test yourself

Using the above criteria, interested parties can check whether their cannabis use shows signs of addiction. However, problematic use usually starts earlier, before addiction occurs. With the self-test cannabis check further characteristics of the consumption are checked, which go beyond the addiction. At the end of the test, there is detailed feedback with recommendations.

Swell:

  • American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edittion. DSM-5. Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • Rumpf, H.-J. & Kiefer, F. (2011). DSM-5: Removing the distinction between addiction and abuse and opening up to behavioral addictions. Addiction, 57 (1), 45-48.
  • Goldenberg, M., Ishak, W. W. & Danovitch, I. (2016). Quality of Life and Recreational Cannabis Use. The American Journal on Addictions, 20, 1-18.