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Can you become addicted to weed, just like alcohol or hard drugs, cocaine or meth? Everyone has an opinion: some claim that cannabis is just as bad as hard drugs and that your life is in danger if you use it. Another claims that you can't get addicted to weed at all. What is the truth? As is often the case, it turns out to be in the middle. Weed, or cannabis, is not completely safe to use, but certainly not as dangerous as hard drugs.

addiction weed

The characteristics of being addicted

If we want to find out if you can be addicted to weed, we need to take a closer look at the characteristics of being addicted. Addiction manifests itself in different ways, according to researchers George Koob and Nora Volkow. They use four factors to define the process of addiction.

1. Chronic relapses

There are chronic relapses. Someone who is addicted will try to get rid of it, but cannot. The addiction will keep coming back, even if that person feels like they've gotten rid of it every time.

2. Always craving for weed

An important characteristic of an addiction is that the need for the drug never disappears. An addict will always have the urge to want to use it. The urge is strong and continuously present in the background (or foreground).

3. Not under control

An addict cannot control his use of the drugs. The urge is greater than the will. You use the drugs even when you really don't want to.

4. Negative emotions

When you can't use the drug, you experience negative emotions. Without the drug you feel bad, you feel bad and that only reinforces the tendency to turn to drugs again.

You are addicted when you meet all of these characteristics or when you are recovering from an addiction. You are also addicted if you have used for a long time in the past and have shown these four points.

addiction drugs

Three stages of addiction

An addiction can be divided into three phases, according to Koob and Volkow. First, an addiction starts with excessive consumption and intoxication. There is therefore an urge to use, despite the fact that someone notices the negative consequences. This is also because in certain situations, the brain releases dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel good. In this way, you associate drugs with a positive feeling, and you are stimulated to use again. Subsequently, withdrawal symptoms develop. Your body reacts negatively when it doesn't get the drugs. This reaction can also be perceived emotionally.

The last phase is preoccupation and anticipation. Your brain gets used to the use of drugs, you feel more attracted to all things that have to do with drugs. You are less and less able to stop your unwanted behaviour.

Physically or mentally addicted

There are two different kinds of addictions: mental and physical addiction. In physical addiction, it is the brain that has come to believe that it needs the drug in order to survive. Without the drug you literally feel sick until you use some of it again. This will only happen with products containing addictive substances. Think of crystal meth, nicotine or heroin.

With a psychological addiction, something different happens. There is no physical need, but a psychological one. So no addictive substance is needed, in this case it can be something that has nothing to do with drugs. Psychological addiction can manifest as food addiction, gambling, sex or even running. You are psychologically addicted to something if it is on your mind all day long, and you do it all day long (which also gets in the way of other normal daily activities). The compulsion to do it negatively impacts your life. Although this form of addiction is not as harmful as a physical addiction, the consequences can be severe, and it is still an addiction.

rolling a joint

The bottom line: can you be addicted to weed?

Since cannabis does not contain substances that are physically addictive, you will not develop physical addiction if you use cannabis. But it can cause psychological addiction. That means that if you consume a lot of cannabis, you may find yourself less motivated to do other things. You may feel like you don't function very well without weed, which makes you want to use it again. In fact, physical withdrawal symptoms can occur if you are a really heavy user.

An addiction to cannabis can actually just happen. It starts off innocently, just having some socializing with friends. But the point is if you got money it is not that difficult to get cannabis. You can become addicted to cannabis if you start using it to avoid feeling certain emotions. Before you know it, you will start using more often. Not only more often in a day, but also in larger quantities. This creates a psychological dependence, where you think you cannot function without cannabis.

If you are addicted to cannabis like that, it is called a cannabis use disorder. All the characteristics of addiction are then present: you have tried to quit several times, but this did not work. You always feel the need to use, and you cannot control the use of weed. You experience negative emotions when you cannot or do not want to use. Your cannabis addiction is so bad that you cannot meet the demands of everyday life: your work suffers, and you spend too little time on your social life.

Controlling your usage

So in the end, we can conclude that you can be addicted to weed. In fact, it is more common than you think. A cannabis addiction is less serious than an addiction to hard drugs. Especially the physical consequences are not that great. Yet a psychological addiction can also have quite a lot of negative consequences. Think of loss of income, friends and your mental health.

But if you use weed in your spare time, you just finish and have a nice time with friends and are you in control of your use? Using cannabis is no different from normal alcohol consumption in that sense. If you are also fine without cannabis and your work and private life; life don't suffer from it, then of course there is no problem at all to enjoy cannabis from time to time without any worries.