Around the country, marijuana is increasingly becoming legalized for both medicinal and recreational purposes, and many people are celebrating it — but some are concerned. Phrases like “gateway drug” can be alarming, and it brings us back to the age-old question: can you get addicted to marijuana?

The answer is a bit of both yes and no. When we think of a substance addiction, we tend to think of alcohol, street drugs like heroin, maybe even a prescription drug like opioids — but not many people think of marijuana.

This is primarily because most of the people who use marijuana do so without having any problems, and without developing any sort of dependence on the plant. Marijuana has never been associated with an overdose or death, but it can still be harmful to your life in different ways, and it is, in fact, possible to become psychologically dependent.

Psychological addiction

Marijuana doesn’t organically contain any sort of addictive chemical as tobacco does, so it is not technically possible to have a physical addiction to marijuana like you can with cigarettes. Cannabis does, however, affect a chemical produced in your brain called dopamine. Dopamine is commonly associated with feelings of pleasure and, in appropriate doses, marijuana can actually boost your natural production of this hormone.

But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. An overuse of marijuana can inhibit your body from naturally producing dopamine as a result of becoming dependent on the plant to produce good feelings. This inability to be happy or exhilarated without the assistance of marijuana is one of the reasons people can become psychologically addicted.

With its euphoric effects on both the mind and body, some people use marijuana as a way to avoid the difficulties and struggles in their lives. Instead of addressing and resolving any problems they’re actively facing, they become psychologically addicted to using marijuana to emotionally numb themselves.

People who struggle with chronic anxiety, depression or insomnia might initially use marijuana for genuine medicinal reasons, but then find themselves psychologically addicted to the fact they’re not feeling stressed, unhappy or exhausted all of the time.

So it is possible to become psychologically — or emotionally — addicted to marijuana. It may not be in the physical, chemical way that you can get addicted to smoking cigarettes; but you can, in fact, develop a psychological addiction to cannabis.

Signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction

Maybe you’ve noticed that lately you’ve been turning to cannabis more often than you used to, and you’re wondering how to figure out if you’ve developed a dependence. Or maybe you’ve recognized that a friend or family member has started using marijuana multiple times a day instead of only every other day and you’re wondering if they’ve become addicted.

Here are some common signs of being addicted to marijuana:

  • Needing the drug to feel normal or have a good time
  • Increasingly using higher doses and/or multiple times a day
  • Using marijuana irresponsibly, such as while driving
  • Avoiding work or social gatherings to use marijuana
  • Lacking motivation or drive to pursue goals
  • Becoming distant in relationships

You or your loved one might meet one or some of the above criteria, but how would you actually know if you’re addicted? One of the surest ways to discern if you’ve developed an addiction is to stop using marijuana for more than just a few days. If that alone seems impossible, there’s your answer.

If you’re able to stop using it though, pay attention to your mental and emotional state. If you find yourself feeling irritable or depressed, or you realize you don’t enjoy activities you used to or feel genuinely happy while sober, you may be psychologically addicted to marijuana.

Your next steps from here

The concept of a marijuana addiction still remains hotly debated in both social and political settings, but it’s fairly difficult to deny that some people are indeed dependent on the plant. While you might not be able to technically develop a physical addiction to marijuana, it is possible to become psychologically addicted.

If you aren’t sure what steps to take next, or you’re feeling anxious because the thought of breaking free of an addiction overwhelms you, send a message to our team here at Silver Ridge.

You can also give us a call today at 855-945-7788.