Is marijuana addictive?

Q: My teenaged daughter and I are having an ongoing debate about the use of marijuana. She claims that marijuana is a relatively safe drug for people to use and that the incidence of addiction to it, and the resulting problems from it, are marginal. 


I disagree. I think that marijuana, like most drugs, is addictive and that people who use it frequently, can get themselves into serious trouble. I am interested in what you think about sustained marijuana use. 


A: I do not think that you can argue that marijuana is not addictive. 


Nine percent of those who use it regularly are clearly addicted to it, meaning that they cannot go for any length of time without using it. 


That figure jumps to 17 percent if some of those users started marijuana while they were still adolescents. 


By way of comparison, think of the problems we might have if nine percent of those who had an alcoholic drink were addicted to it. 


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Alcohol has its own problems, but its consumption is widespread and is not likely to disable nine percent of those who use it. 


In other words, the addictive strength of marijuana is more than your daughter is willing to admit.


One of the problems when trying to understand marijuana is that today’s substance is considerably greater than it used to be. 


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main substance in marijuana, has risen to 6.1 percent in strength in 2014 from 3.7 percent in 1990. 


That means that the marijuana on the streets is cleaner and more powerful and addictive than it used to be.


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The discussions that you and your daughter are having are certainly relevant for today’s family. 


The federal government is proposing legislation to take the drug industry away from the nefarious underground and create legislation that will provide better guidelines, oversight and regulation.


Marijuana in the stores will likely hit even higher quality grades than what is currently sold on the street. People who use it should be aware that it has a possible addictive potential and should be used with the same self-control you might expect from the casual drinker at a cocktail party. 


Hopefully your daughter is cultivating some of that awareness from her discussions with you and will mature into a responsible participant.

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Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor 
from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

  • “By way of comparison, think of the problems we might have if nine percent of those who had an alcoholic drink were addicted to it. 
”

    “About 12% of American adults have had an alcohol dependence problem at some time in their life. In the United States and Western Europe, 10 to 20 percent of men and 5 to 10 percent of women at some point in their lives will meet criteria for alcoholism.”

    Hasin DS, Stinson FS, Ogburn E, Grant BF (2007). “Prevalence, Correlates,
    Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence in
    the United States”. Archives of General Psychiatry. 64 (7): 830–42. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.64.7.830. PMID 17606817.

  • Fred_N

    Does the existence of whiskey make beer worse?

    • Kissing optional

      No, the existence of whiskey (govt regulated) 40%alc by vol., means the amount of consumption to reach the same level of alcohol intoxication and liver or brain damage as beer ( govt regulated) 5% cal by vol., is less.
      Preferred taste is what make your choice of poison ‘better or worse’
      Unlike the consumption of THC, both alcohol preferences will kill you.

  • dana_larsen

    This is just terrible advice, and scientifically inaccurate on every level. Alcohol is more addictive, more dangerous and more problematic in every way than cannabis is.

    “A survey of over 40,000 adults indicated that among those who began drinking before age 14, nearly half had become alcoholic dependent by the age of 21. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 17% of men and 8% of women meet criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/alcoholism/risk-factors.html

  • dana_larsen

    I was wondering about the strange claim that “Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main substance in marijuana, has risen to 6.1 percent in strength in 2014 from 3.7 percent in 1990.” Both of those potency numbers seem very small.

    So I did some googling and found that this claim comes from a 2015 report from the US Office on National Drug Control Strategy. In the report, the show these potency numbers for “All types of cannabis.” But the report explains that “The category “All Types” of cannabis tested includes ditchweed and a small number of Thai sticks.”

    This report actually differentiates between “marijuana” and “sinsemilla” and is also basically nonsense. It’s too bad these inaccuracies and bad science get repeated and passed around the media like this.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20160417165244/https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/policy-and-research/2015_data_supplement_final.pdf

  • quel-y

    There are scientific studies showing that alcohol dependance and addiction is higher than cannabis. It’s also a very strange conclusion to suggest that just because alcohol is widespread that it’s less harmful when in fact it’s more harmful and more addictive. Too many people die from all sorts of different alcohol-related issues every year. Please check your facts before purporting to be an expert answering questions such as this one.

    • Harold

      It is an interesting perspective that you have. Why do you suppose that the Government of Canada now in second reading of the revised criminal code is adding drug use (cannabis) to the criminal operation of a motor vehicle? Does the government have more studies than you may be possibly aware of? I am sure that you have checked the facts. I am also certain that you know of where all of the cannabis users line up to be audited. Is it at the doors of all those who wish to scientifically study them? If cannabis use is not addictive why are there tremendous sales of an illegal product to the envy of the tobacco industry? Further, alcohol is easily monitored owing to its legality whereas cannabis is not. Are there facts to prove that cannabis is not more widespread than liquor is?. We can find the total sales of alcohol but where do we find the total sales of cannabis? It would seem that with our ongoing and persistent addiction to cannabis that now the Government wants “a piece of the action”. (legalization) Moreover, Breathalysers are used at roadside traffic stops and accidents to audit traffic fatalities whereas cannabis is not and overlooked. (not after the revised criminal code becomes Law) It would seem that your opinion is not better than, but just as good as anyone else’s opinion. Per adventure, define harm and then what full may mean. (harmful)

  • bufford54

    Any mind altering drug (including alcohol) is potentially dangerous no matter how addictive it is, when consumed in large quantities. I’ve known people who have quit drinking and smoking tobacco, (both extremely addictive) but I’ve never heard of anyone giving up weed. The greater concern should be, who are you buying the weed from, and is it safe? Just pray that your daughter doesn’t experiment with other drugs that may very well kill her.