Cannabis Dependence

As of 2021, cannabis has become a legal substance in 16 states and Washington D.C., with several other states most likely following suit in the coming years.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it is considered the same as heroin, cocaine, or any other illicit drug.

This designation is significant because the American government still considers marijuana a gateway drug. After all, chronic marijuana users can experience adverse effects from this illicit substance.

Recovering from opioids and prescription drugs, like all addictions, can be pretty tricky. The team of medical professionals at Aspen Behavioral Health have years of knowledge and the expertise to help you on your journey to sobriety.

What is cannabis dependence?

Cannabis dependence (also called weed dependence) occurs when a person becomes overly dependent on using marijuana on a very regular basis.

A person becomes addicted to marijuana when their brain slowly adapts to larger amounts of cannabis, resulting in the brains’ cannabinoid receptors becoming less sensitive over time.

Cannabis addiction is defined as when a person can no longer function in the daily aspects of regular life when they have not used marijuana.

Some of the physical symptoms that can be experienced are:

  •  irritability, mood, and sleep difficulties
  • decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness
  • various forms of physical discomfort that peak in week one and can last for two weeks

Am I dependent on cannabis?

Marijuana dependence, like other substance use disorders, has typical behavioral patterns which can be expected for those who experience marijuana use disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has developed a criteria list for cannabis use disorder (CUD). This criteria list was made to help categorize certain behaviors that could indicate whether someone has a marijuana addiction.

Here is a partial list of behavioral patterns of marijuana users:

  • marijuana is typically taken in large amounts over long periods of time
  • a constant desire to cut down on the amounts of cannabis used
  • spending a lot of time trying to find more marijuana to help ease any physical symptoms of withdrawal
  • intense cravings appear when cannabis is not used
  • cravings having adverse effects on work performance and personal life
  • any forms of a social life or recreational activities are given up due to cannabis use
  • Cannabis use disorder or CUD has shown to be mild if two to three symptoms appear, moderate if four to five symptoms appear, and severe if six or more symptoms are present

What are the possible causes of cannabis dependence?

Although there is not too much certainty where cannabis dependence comes from, research has shown that marijuana dependence comes from 42% of users saying they wanted to fit in socially with peers.

This research also found that 29% of marijuana users wanted to experiment using the drug when they first tried it.[xx] Along with that, it was found that 24% of other people used marijuana simply because they enjoyed the drug and how it made them feel.

When should I consider getting clean from cannabis dependence?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that if a person is experiencing at least two of the following symptoms within 12 months, their marijuana use may be an addiction.

The list below details signs of cannabis dependence:

  • continuing marijuana use even when personal relationships fall apart
  • continuing marijuana use after the effects of cannabis have caused-mental disorders or negative physical symptoms
  • increased tolerance to smoking marijuana leading to the need to use more significant amounts
  • having signs of withdrawal symptoms when there is no more marijuana
  • doing fewer social activities because you would prefer to use cannabis instead
  • signs of risky behavior that could put you in danger
  • using marijuana so much that you are not able to do anything else during the day
  • spending large amounts of time looking for more marijuana and thinking about cutting back on how much is used but without success

Common signs of marijuana use disorder can appear as losing interest in things that used to bring you joy, damaged or neglected relationships and being unable to stop using the substance.

What are some signs of withdrawal symptoms from cannabis dependence?

Here is a list of typical marijuana dependence withdrawal symptoms:

  • diminished appetite, cravings for marijuana
  • mood changes, irritability, stomach problems
  • sleep difficulties, including insomnia
  • headaches, loss of focus, increased feelings of depression
  • sweating, including cold sweats, chills

The symptoms listed above can range in how mild or intense someone may experience them. The longer a person has used marijuana, the stronger the withdrawal symptoms will be when the user has stopped.

How do I get help for cannabis dependence?

The journey to sobriety does not have to be done alone. Many resources are free and confidential to help support you:

Talk to a recovery professional at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357)

The team at Aspen Behavioral Health is here to support you on your journey to recovery. Let our team of experts and professionals guide you as you work towards your sobriety.

Suppose you or you know someone fighting opioid or prescription drug dependence. In that case, Aspen Behavioral Health has various treatment options tailored to your specific needs and medical history.

Aspen Behavioral Health, located in sunny West Palm Beach, is a rehab center that helps people regroup, detox, and find support as they start their journey to sobriety. Take that first step and talk to one of our Aspen Behavioral Health specialists today.


Holland, Kimberly, Reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP, “What to Expect from Marijuana Withdrawal”, March 21, 2019, Retrieved from www.healthline.com/health/marijuana-withdrawal

Hartney, Elizabeth, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD, “Recognize the Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction”, VeryWellMind, August 2, 2021, Retrieved from www.verywellmind.com/characteristics-of-marijuana-addiction-22298

PSYCOM, “Cannabis Use Disorder: Know the Signs”, July 13, 2021, Retrieved from www.psycom.net/cannabis-use-disorder

Marwaha, Raman, & Patel, Jason, “Cannabis Use Disorder”, July 12, 2001, Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538131/

National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Is marijuana addictive”, July 2020, Retrieved from www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive


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