Is Cannabis Chemically Addictive?
Posted by:- Carla Harris 


Is Cannabis Chemically Addictive?

Like many other things about cannabis, it’s hard to have a definitive answer on addiction and dependency, specifically chemical addiction.

It’s common wisdom that while habit-forming much in the same way as television-watching or gambling, cannabis use is not chemically addictive in the way drugs like nicotine, caffeine, or methamphetamines might be.

Almost no one disputes the fact that cannabis use can be habit-forming and psychologically-addictive. Studies show that up to 1 in 11 people who use cannabis or marijuana can develop a dependence of some kind.


However, the evidence does support the idea that cannabis can, in fact, be chemically addictive.

THC in particular, the chemical compound responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive properties, has been singled out as something that may, contrary to popular idea, induce chemical dependence.

Modern problems; modern solutions

While it’s clear that any such chemical dependence may not be generally as “strong” as that of popular legal drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine, the ever increasing potency of cannabis strains today puts into question the findings of older studies that found cannabis caused no chemical dependency. Modern strains can contain up to 50 times more THC than strains common in the 1970s when much of the long-term research on cannabis began.


This makes it difficult to compare the results of those studies compared to ones being conducted today. They may also be less relevant in today’s environment given that the cannabis market highly favors more powerful strains of cannabis with high THC content.


This makes the conversation around medical cannabis more problematic and muddled, even in the light of all the benefits cannabis has demonstrated for a wide variety of ailments.


This has also shifted the interest from straight medical cannabis with full THC content to processed CBD oil (Cannabidiol), which has demonstrated many of the benefits of cannabis without the strong psychoactive properties of THC or a known link to chemical addiction.

Psychological addiction is still a proven risk

However, most experts seem to agree that the dangers of uncontrolled cannabis use don’t lie in chemical addiction, but rather in psychological dependence. Much like a gambling addict is far less productive than they would be without their addiction, someone with a psychological addiction to cannabis is unlikely to be productive as well.


The unproductive minutes from frequent, unnecessary cannabis use can add up over the course of just a few years and can lead to social isolation and reduced motivation in other areas of life.

For this reason, even it was proven that THC is chemically addictive, it likely won’t mean much in the wider context of the more widespread and very real effects of psychological cannabis addiction. There would be perhaps a few changes in how such addictions are treated, but very little would change in real terms.

What it may result in, however, may be difficulties in having cannabis achieve wider acceptance, which is somewhat strange given that caffeine and alcohol are widely used and legal despite the fact that they create very real chemical dependencies as well.

On the other hand, thanks to breakthroughs in CBD oil, we may very well be on the cusp of effective, safe, and truly non-chemically-addictive cannabis-based treatments. Though given the state of cannabis legalization and the difficulty of conducting cannabis research, it’s hard to know when this will happen.

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