Marijuana addiction has been part of a controversial debate. Most people are under the impression that it is impossible to become addicted to this drug. However, research shows that marijuana use has increased among adults by 9.5% in 2012-2013 in the United States. This increase is particularly apparent among women, persons of color, persons living in the South, and people who are middle-aged or older. Furthermore, about 31% of these users suffer from a marijuana use disorder, which encompasses both dependence and abuse and results in the need for drug treatment.

Dr. Larissa Mooney, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Addiction Medicine Clinic, did not express any surprise at the results. The reason for this being that marijuana has become much more accessible in the last few years. 23 States permit the regulated use of medical marijuana while four states have legalized even its recreational use. This increased availability also has the implication of reducing the drug’s stigma. Many people now consider marijuana to be less risky with less harmful effects than other drugs which are still illegal.

Factors that increase vulnerability to marijuana addiction

While it is true that, like alcohol, a number of people are able to use marijuana without becoming addicted, it is estimated that three out of ten Americans who use marijuana are either dependant on or abuse the drug. The factors of increased vulnerability to marijuana addiction include a family history of addiction, genetics, social factors, and co-occuring metal disorders.

It has been proven in various studies that genes are a strong predictor of addiction. This is done by analyzing identical twins that are raised in different families. It was found that if one twin is addicted to something, there is a strong possibility that the other twin will also suffer from addiction.

Another indicator is an individual’s social factors. It has been found that a person with social ties and responsibilities, such as a job and family, has a lower risk of developing problems relating to addiction. On the other hand, a person who has a poor social network and who doesn’t have a job to go to every day is more likely to become addicted.

Mental illness and stress are also risk factors for marijuana addiction. If, for instance, an individual suffers from anxiety, certain strains of marijuana will help relieve these feelings. The problem is that the body then builds up a tolerance and requires such an individual to consume even more marijuana to help with their anxiety. When they eventually try to stop, they will find that their anxiety is even worse than before.

Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana’s immediate effects include distorted perception, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, as well as the loss of motor coordination. Long-term use could lead to respiratory infection, impaired memory, and exposure to cancer-causing compounds – according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Moreover, where an individual has abused marijuana in his youth, he is at an increased risk for developing mental illness and poorer brain health.

It is therefore important for individuals to be informed about the facts relating to the use of marijuana. Like any other drug, it can become addictive and result in various negative consequences. Although the likelihood of an individual developing an addiction to marijuana depends on differing factors, abstention is always the safest way to avoid the risk completely.