Is marijuana addictive? You can bet your heroin on that!

marijuana“Is marijuana addictive?” seems to be the ultimate question for many people. In fact, when discussing addiction, it is rare that the addiction potential for marijuana doesn’t come up.

Some basic points about marijuana:

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain (CB1 and CB2). Since it is a partial agonist, it activates these receptors, though not to their full capacity. The fact that cannabinoid receptors modulate mood, sleep, and appetite is why you get the munchies and feel content and why many people use it to help with sleep.

But how is marijuana addictive? What’s the link to heroin?

What most people don’t know is that there is quite a bit of interaction between the cannabinoid receptor system (especially CB1 receptors) and the opioid receptor system in the brain. In fact, research has shown that without the activation of the µ opioid receptor, THC is no longer rewarding.

If the fact that marijuana activates the same receptor system as opiates (like heroin, morphine, oxycontin, etc.) surprises you, you should read on.

The opioid system in turn activates the dopamine reward pathway I’ve discussed in numerous other posts (look here for a start). This is the mechanisms that is assumed to underlie the rewarding, and many of the addictive, properties of essentially all drugs of abuse.

But we’re not done!

Without the activation of the CB1 receptors, it seems that opiates, alcohol, nicotine, and perhaps stimulants (like methamphetamine) lose their rewarding properties. This would mean that drug reward depends much more heavily on the cannabinoid receptor system than had been previously thought. Since this is the main target for THC, it stands to reason that the same would go for marijuana.

So what?! Why is marijuana addictive?

Since there’s a close connection between the targets of THC and the addictive properties of many other drugs, it seems to me that arguing against an addictive potential for marijuana is silly.

Of course, some will read this as my saying that marijuana is always addictive and very dangerous. They would be wrong. My point is that marijuana can not be considered as having no potential for addiction.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, the proportion of drug users that become addicted, or dependent, on drugs is relatively small (10%-15%). This is true for almost all drugs – What I’m saying is that it is likely also true for marijuana (here is a discussion of physical versus psychological addiction and their bogus distinction).

Citation:

Ghozland, Matthes, Simonin, Filliol, L. Kieffer, and Maldonado (2002). Motivational Effects of Cannabinoids Are Mediated by μ-Opioid and κ-Opioid Receptors. Journal of Neuroscience, 22, 1146-1154.

51 Replies to “Is marijuana addictive? You can bet your heroin on that!”

  1. To quote “The proportion of drug users that become addicted, or dependent, on drugs is relatively small (10%-15%). This is true for almost all drugs. All I’m saying is that it is probably also true for marijuana.”

    That may be all you are saying, but you are presenting your point very badly. You have no actual proof other than speculation, even if it is very scientific speculation. Then you have the troubling problem of reality raising its sphere of influence into your theory. If 10 to 15% of cannabis users became addicted or dependent, in a nation that uses thousands of tons of it per year, I should think we would all know several marijuana (or cannabis to use its scientific and actual name) users addicted to this devil weed. I have smoked it for over 70 years and I haven’t run across a cannabis addict yet. I’ve seen drunks cry when the bottle ran dry, but I haven’t seen this sort of behavior in cannabis users.

    Again I pose the question, if the point you are trying to make is as you stated, then why do you bother with such a roundabout method of speculation. Further it would do you well to actually define what it is you call “addiction or dependent”. If you can’t quantify the attribute you are attempting to stigmatize with your dubious scientific theory, then the whole thing is really just pointless, isn’t it ?

  2. Harry,

    Though I’m not sure what it means for reality to raise its sphere of influence, I can easily tell you where you might find the elusive marijuana addict you’re searching for. If you live in a city of any size, you can find them congregating at meetings of an organization called “Marijuana Anonymous.”

    At these meetings, there are a number of people who have been, or still are, using marijuana in a dependent, addictive, manner. Since I’ve never personally been addicted to the drug, you can get more clarification of the specific nature of marijuana withdrawal from them. I can assure you they exist.

    Furthermore, my method of speculation was not roundabout, but instead followed what is known as inductive reasoning. This is a common method of evaluating things that go beyond the facts of common evidence (like the fact that all grass is green). It is the kind of logic that has proved useful in endless endeavors. I’m certain you’ve used it before yourself.

    Lastly, substance dependence is clearly defined in the DSM-IV, and includes a set of conditions that one can easily locate online. I will make certain to include a post in the near future that details those conditions; I agree that it would be helpful.

    Again, though I never meant to offend marijuana smokers, it seems that every time I mention a negative aspect of the drug, smokers are offended. I assume there’s a reason, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. If anything, my goal is to remove the stigma of addiction. I would note that it is you, not I, who considers the notion of addiction a “mark of Cain.”

    1. You could literally make the same argument for folks who are addicted to masturbation or videogames. Something makes you happy = releases dopamine, and of course overstimulation of dopamine leads to tolerance. The same sort of thing happens to folks who are “addicted” to adrenaline-producing activities who burn out their adrenal glands.

      My question is ‘Why are we even having this discussion?’ What’s the end game if not to ‘scare’ readers into demonizing marijuana? Are we also going to talk about how excessive violence in the media desensitizes youth? How about “too much chocolate milk will make regular milk look inferior?” I just don’t get what the hell the significance of this article is. It’s like telling me eating marshmellows all day will make me chunky. No shit, kiddo. Somewhere, someone needs to draw the “who gives a shit” line.

  3. Maybe I’d be safe since I seem to have a brain that likes stimulants rather than opiates. I’ve always wanted to live in the Northwest. I could retire to Oregon and ….

    Hmm. I’m not exactly sure but something tells me there may be a flaw in my logic here. In fact, there’s a whole slew of logical fallacies. Shit. Clearly I’ll have to stay in denial for that retirement option to seem smart.

  4. people are sent to rehab centers by court order. most won’t check themselves into rehab for marijuana, unless they’re forced to by law, because they were caught with minimal amounts. what degrees do you hold to allow you to come to the conclusion that marijuana is physically addicting, when doctors/researchers with PHD’s beg to differ? you can be psychologically addicted to anything, just as a person can be physically addicted to heroin. you cannot compare a physically addicting substance to a psychologically addicting substance, and say that the addiction is equal.

  5. Dear Oh,
    Thank you for reading my post. Had you read my “about me” section, you would have read that I’ve been involved in drug addiction research for the past 6 years and will receive my PhD next year.
    Again, my conclusion was reached based on published research, not on simple opinion. If you conduct an online search for the term “marijuana dependence,” you will find numerous other PhDs that agree that marijuana can be addictive.
    While we’re on it, since you’d mentioned the distinction, I would ask you what the difference between physical and psychological addiction is? Isn’t the brain a physical component of the body? Wouldn’t psychological addiction therefore also be physical? I think the distinction is a false one. What you mean to say is that marijuana doesn’t display severe physical withdrawal symptoms like heroin. But the thing is neither does methamphetamine; would you say meth is not physically addictive?

  6. I have been an addict in recovery for 23 years, and an addictions professional for about 5. I am still in school, continuing to rack up credentials.

    Is Marijuana addictive?
    Well, duh! Of course it is.

    Are all users addicts?
    Of course not.

    Is there anything “wrong” with using marijuana?
    Of course not.

    Is psychological addiction different from “physical” addiction?
    Just barely. Due to the effects on brain chemistry, the addiction is also physical. People say it is not, because the withdrawal symptoms don’t look like those from alcohol or opiate detoxification.

    I have sat with countless cannabis addicts who signed themselves into treatment because they wept when the bag was empty. For them, it cost them marriages, jobs, families, and fortunes.

    They were weeping when I sat with them, because they were in our detox unit, shaking, restless, and having terrifying dreams. They were wondering if they would ever again have enough emotional sensitivity to actually be in a relationship again.

    These people are a minority, but they are very, very real. If cannabis is not a problem for you, then smoke it. If it becomes a problem, then get help, before you are mandated, since that mandate makes it harder to succeed in recovery.

  7. This is an example of how the governments scare tactics have been counterproductive. People are hesitant to trust this kind of information (and are even hostile to it).

    When I was in high school I had a friend who was mixing alcohol with different kinds of pills. I told him that this was dangerous and he responded that this was something was just said to scare people ala reefer madness. When he died from an overdose of the above combination only a few months later, I really regretted not trying to convince him more.

  8. That sounds like a horrible story, and unfortunately, one that is simply too common.

    I think you’re right though that propaganda reduces people’s ability to listen critically and make intelligent choices.

  9. According to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, who appeared on CNN this week talking about marijuana and it’s medicinal/addictive potential, quoted very different statistics than you. As a professional in the drug addiction field, I thought you might be interested to see his interview which includes a chart showing the different percentages of drug addiction:
    http://patients4medicalmarijuana.wordpress.com/2009/06/18/the-medical-facts-on-marijuana/

    One other note, one cannot draw the conclusion that since Marijuana Anonymous meetings exist, there are lots of folks addicted to marijuana.

    There are other contributing factors, which include the fact that many choose this option rather than serving time in jail. They have to go to meetings to meet probation regulations.

  10. Samantha,

    Are you really making the argument that Dr. Gupta’s %9 estimate is vastly different than my 10%-15% one? I think that if you stop for a second, you’ll agree that those numbers are very close.

    There should be no argument about whether marijuana can be addictive or not. Estimates will vary, but they all hover around the same numbers.

    On your other note, I’m not drawing that conclusion, but I am saying that there must be some.

    Why are pro-legalization marijuana users the only group that simply can’t accept the facts about marijuana?!

  11. “…the proportion of drug users that become addicted, or dependent, on drugs is relatively small (10%-15%).”

    That is not in keeping with the science as seen in the video. There are different levels when you look at the different drugs according to the chart in the video. Did you notice that?

    “There should be no argument about whether marijuana can be addictive or not.”

    There actually IS ongoing research in the medical community as to whether or not cannabis has addictive qualities. Until it is proven one way or another, I do hope the search for facts continues.

    Why are most anti-legalization, anti-marijuana folks incapable of seeing that there are shades of gray, and instead make sweeping black-and-white comments full of emotion but void of scientific references?

    1. We were discussing marijuana rates, I can bring in some statistics that will dispute the numbers Dr. Gupta used, which were estimates, of course.

      We can argue this back and forth, the point is that all evidence at the moment points towards the notion that marijuana can be addictive. The point of this article was to expose a relationship between cannabis use and opioid receptors.

      I’m not sure if you read that part of the post, but I thought the information was interesting, which is why it got posted.

      Let’s leave the general legalization argument out of this and talk about the focus of the post. How does that sound?

  12. “Why are pro-legalization marijuana users the only group that simply can’t accept the facts about marijuana?!”

    First off, you are stating opinions. Facts are not as subjective as what you’re presenting.

    Secondly, marijuana users are so touchy because of the unfairness of the battle. Legalize and people will be more open to discussing this. But while cigarettes and alcohol, which ruin millions of lives a year, are the only legal drug; you will never be having a fair discussion about cannabis. Because every time someone posts something ignorant like this it takes us back another 10 years in our legalization efforts.

  13. Matt,

    Which of my arguments are you referring to when you say that I’m stating opinion?

    The interaction between canabinoid receptors and opioid receptors is supported by research, at least the research I’ve seen. If you’ve seen research that contradicts it, I would be happy to consider it.

    My statements regarding marijuana being addictive are also supported by research. The only “opinion” was my suggestion that the interaction I’d mentioned might have something to do with the addictive properties of marijuana.

    I completely agree that cigarettes and alcohol destroy lives, but that doesn’t alter the above facts about marijuana.

    Additionally, if you take a minute to look at the comments, or some of my other posts on this site, you will see that I’m not against legalization. I’m just not outright for it.

    Given recent moves towards more open marijuana policies in California and Colorado, I’m sure that we will soon have data on whether opening marijuana use has any impact on its prevalence among youth, addiction rates, etc.

  14. This article is full of misinformation, and false reasoning… Rather than base their claims on science, known facts, and logic… They’ve drawn their claims from guesses, and under-informed partial-facts. One cannot infer the conclusions made here, from the reasoning stated. You cannot make the claim that because cannabinoid receptors are similar in one way, to other receptors, that they behave the same way, and cause addiction to the same degree or in the same way. That is just ludicrous.

    Marijuana is certainly NOT addictive like Heroin! The claims made here are not true for the vast majority of Marijuana users. Most of them never become addicted to it, most never feel like they need it, and most quit on and off for long periods of time, whenever they need to.
    Regardless of how addiction centers try to portray it, the true medical research available out there shows that Marijuana has NO chemical addiction. Any addiction a small percentage of users may experience, is a mental one. It is an attachment in their mind, because smoking pot is enjoyable. The small percentage of people who have addictive tendencies, simply become “Addicted” to Marijuana, because they like it.

    In virtually no situations do users ever become chemically dependent on Pot. They never experience true withdrawal symptoms, certainly not comparable to what one would get from alcohol or tobacco. Or worse drugs, which can kill you from withdrawal.
    Marijuana is nothing compared to heroin, and every officially recognized addiction classification puts Marijuana on the level of Caffeine, FAR below harder drugs, like heroin.
    It is laughably absurd to compare Marijuana to heroin. People who attempt to do so, have something to gain from portraying Marijuana as addictive, whether that be a point/agenda or the money coming in for an addiction “Specialist”.

    Every bit of credible research/information I can find on Marijuana’s addictiveness, puts it no more higher on the chart, than Caffeine. And this is what MOST Marijuana users report as their experience first hand.

  15. It’s interesting that pot users seem to insist that their information and research is unbiased and factual, and research proving pot to be addictive, to have adverse effects and/or to have withdrawal symptoms is completely biased and unfactual. The only info that I have been able to find supporting pot as being non-addictive, etc, are from researchers named “for the right to legalize”, etc, but the info I find to support that pot is addictive is from institutes that are experts in scientific research for various medical issues, etc.

    Also the people that argue or suggest that pot is addictive never seem as paranoid that the other side (the pot smokers) seem to be that these arguments are personal attacks against them. It also appears that some of those who argue that many years of pot use has had no effect on them seem to often misinterpret the basis of the other’s argument (the one suggesting that pot is addictive and/ or has side effects). Hmmmm…..paranoia, irritability, aggressiveness, and difficulty interpreting complex information. I wonder where I’ve read this grouping of side effects before?

  16. As an addict, this whole conversation is really silly to me. I used to be one of the “impossible to get addicted to weed” people. I used to have a bad heroin habit, but I finally cleaned up. Then I decided, “well, as long as I only use weed, I’ll be fine”. Well, I still don’t touch heroin, but after 5 months of daily smoking, I can assure you, there are DEFINITELY physical withdrawals. They aren’t as bad as heroin, but they ARE similar. Your body heat is erratic; you’re either too hot or too cold, and constantly sweating. I can’t sleep at all. It’s hell.

    I’m all for marijuana being legalized, since I believe if freedom of choice. If you can’t handle it, there is help available; help I’ll probably be seeking when I can’t afford my habit anymore.

    People who say weed isn’t addictive are simply speaking from ignorance. The truth is, they don’t want to believe. They are happy with their fairy tale that weed is a wonder drug with no downsides.

    Is weed only psychologically addictive? Maybe. But it certainly expresses itself through physical symptoms. When you can’t sleep, can’t get comfortable, and feel like you’re jumping out of your skin, the distinction between physical and psychological becomes meaningless.

    However, I do have a history of addiction; it’s in my genes. I understand that a majority of people will probably be fine. But if you’re a daily smoker, and have been smoking for 3+ months, here’s a little experiment for ya: stop smoking for a week. Not a day; when I was hooked on heroin, I fooled myself with the line , “well, I haven’t had any today, and I’m fine; I must not be hooked”. Stop for a week, then come back and tell your experience. Until then, you’re speaking from ignorance, and your comments do nothing but spread misinformation(you know, that thing we’re all pissed at the government for doing?).

    If you exceed moderation with any drug, it WILL bite you in the ass.

  17. (below comes from “This Is Your War on Drugs” | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/SAo85)

    “…the drug czar, who in 1998 was mandated by Congress to oppose legislation that would legalize, decriminalize, or medicalize marijuana, or redirect anti-trafficking funding into treatment. And the drug czar has also…been prohibited from funding research that might give credence to any of the above.”

    Here lies the reason pro pot people might sound paranoid and why there is little research on ‘our side’.

  18. Hey Samantha, you might be interested in reading Josh’s comment above.

    Additionally, for someone who prides herself on sources, the one you just gave me makes reference to some politicians, but not to an actual bill.

    More importantly, ONDCP doesn’t weigh in on individual grants (the things that pay for research). It’s true that it has oversight over the NIDA budget, but individual grants have always been peer-reviewed, meaning that other researchers decide which research seems promising and which does not. The mechanism works this way exactly to avoid the politicizing of research.

    The bottom line is that the drug czar has no influence over what research gets funded. Though I’m sure Bush would have loved to change that…

  19. I stumbled on this earlier while seeing if there is something to help with marijuana withdrawals, and the conversation got me interested.

    For the sake of science(*cough*), I decided to test this theory that cannabis and opiates use the same receptors. I’m out of weed, and I can’t get any til tomorrow, but after making a few calls, I was able to locate some heroin. I shot up an hour ago, and now that the rush has worn off, I’m still feeling no marijuana withdrawals.

    The true test will come tonight. Will I be able to sleep, despite having no weed in my system? If so, that lends quite a bit of credibility to this in my book.

    But it should be stated that, while heroin seems to be stopping weed withdrawal, the converse is not true. Smoking weed during heroin withdrawals actually makes me feel worse, since it makes be really tired, but still unable to sleep; and that drives me CRAZY.

    So yeah, the author of this post is definitely speaking truth. And to those who think I may be lying… what do I have to gain? I WANT weed to be legalized, and have read up on and voted on every bill that brings it closer to legalization.

    I think weed is a great drug, with many benefits. But to pretend there are no ill effects is just ridiculous. In fact, it’s propaganda in its own right, and such misinformation, in the long run, is going to make the fight for legalization harder. Lobbyist for tobacco say it isn’t addictive; why should we believe weed lobbyists? I’ll stick with unbiased scientific research, thank you. And when possible, I always try and find out for myself. I suggest everyone start thinking for themselves and be willing to be proven wrong. After all, one of the most important aspects of any scientific theory is that it has to be falsifiable. That’s why creationism isn’t science: it can’t be proven wrong. I see a lot of similarities in the marijuana community. They know they are right, and anything you say to the contrary will be dismissed because they just KNOW they are right.

    But it’s not all their fault. Government propaganda is one of the leading causes of drug deaths. I spent a lot of time ignoring everything bad anyone said about drugs because of all the lies I heard as a kid. But now I’ve gained some maturity and started looking at things with a critical eye, and realized weed isn’t so black and white. Reefer madness is garbage, but so is the “weed is not addictive” lie. Reality always tends to lie in the gray area. Weed is a relatively benign drugs, but if you smoke daily, it’s only a matter of time until you become hooked. Anything that releases dopamine/serotonin WILL cause addiction in the long run, because your body grows to rely on it. Then when it’s gone, it WILL take a while for your body to kick back into gear.

    But I know most people are just going to have to learn the hard way. I get it, I’m an addict too. We always have to do things the hard way, and we have a huge problem trusting authority. But in the end, we all learn. I had to die twice(once on my brithday) and spend a month in rehab, only to become hooked on weed when I got out, but I finally learned.

    To the people who are capable of being rational about this subject: all I’m saying is be careful. I don’t like to preach because I know addicts never hear it, and it only turns them off and makes things worse. But just know that weed addiction is VERY real and it SUCKS. I’d recommend smoking no more than three times a week to avoid withdrawals, because daily smoking WILL get you hooked eventually. Heroin hooks you in 3-4 days, but weed takes quite a bit longer, so it’s easy to become complacent. Don’t let this happen to you.

  20. Josh,
    please end comments with “in my personal experience”. what you have said regarding cannabis addiction is simply not true for everyone.

    not everyone who smokes is an addict. from personal experience, one CAN smoke everyday for decades and NOT experience withdrawal or anything unpleasant when stopping abruptly.

    it is for this reason that i am committed to stopping the rhetoric whenever possible.

    thanks.

  21. I never said everyone who smokes is an addict.

    “However, I do have a history of addiction; it’s in my genes. I understand that a majority of people will probably be fine.”

    Please read my whole post, and please stop quoting me out of context.

    No one I know who is a daily smoker for years has ever been able to quit without withdrawals. Withdrawals express themselves differently in different people. Some people sleep all the time and have horrible nightmares and depression, while others have withdrawals like mine.

    And I’m calling bullshit on this:

    “from personal experience, one CAN smoke everyday for decades and NOT experience withdrawal or anything unpleasant when stopping abruptly.”

    You are either lying, or didn’t connect the symptoms to withdrawals. There are many reports of people taking opiates for pain relief, stopping, then getting the “flu”. Since they don’t consider the fact they can get withdrawals, they discount as something else. This is especially easy with weed, since the withdrawals are mild, and don’t feel that different from a bad flu.

    I’m sorry, but you have a whole site dedicated to marijuana legalization, so you have a clear bias. Your entire site is dedicated to making weed sound like a perfect drug. This simply is not reality, and this kind of disinformation is making it harder to argue the case FOR marijuana. The alcohol industry acknowledges the danger from drinking; I wish the marijuana community would be responsible and do the same.

  22. One more thing:

    I’ve browsed through your site quite a bit, and for the life of me, I can’t find one page discussing any negatives. The whole site is propaganda, and it’s really making me question your credibility. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I missed a page that mentioned dangers from smoking weed. If you’d like to point it out, I’ll gladly retract this statement.

    There are MANY people who are hooked on weed, and you’re not even acknowledging it on your site. And until you do, I just can’t take you seriously. You’re either in denial, or you’re a paid lobbyist.

    Seriously, go to a marijuana anonymous meeting. Stop assuming things about a group of people you know nothing about. Hell, watch the show Celebrity Rehab. Jaimee Foxworth went through the same withdrawals I experience. She wasn’t forced there by the courts, and even if she was, she’d have no reason to fake her withdrawals.

    As it stands, your argument is unfalsifiable. No matter what others say, your mind is made up, and no evidence to the contrary is going to make you change your mind. I have no intentions of trying to sway you; you already have your agenda, and you won’t admit to anything that may compromise that. I simply recommend third parties reading this to REALLY look at the arguments and think for yourself. It’s MUCH easier to smoke in moderation than to deal with horrible withdrawals and never be able to smoke like a normal person again. Once you cross that line into “addict”, there’s no going back. You’re an addict for life, and you’ll find it next to impossible to use in moderation.

  23. Sorry the multiple posts, but this is important. I’m sure you’re familiar with erowid. It’s the drug user’s bible. For a drug that’s not addictive, there sure seems to be a whole lot of people saying it is.

    http://www.erowid.org/experiences/subs/exp_Cannabis_Addiction_Habituation.shtml

    I’m not going to go through and read them all. I already know it’s addictive because I’m addicted. But I’d say it’s safe to assume that out of those 52 posts, you’ll find several that disagrees with you opinion that weed is not addictive.

    I highly recommend that people do as much research as possible. Research that discusses BOTH sides, not just the ones that back up your beliefs.

  24. Thanks for the contribution Josh. For my part, I’ll admit that even though I use more measured language – I admit that drugs have positive and negative aspects – I have been presenting the addictive aspects of them more than others.

    But than again, that is the point of the site.

    I want to make this clear, though only some people will actually get this far: I am not against drugs per se. I am however for the study of addiction and everything that entails.

    Drugs (yes, including marijuana) can, have, and will continue to serve useful purposes. That does not detract from the fact that we need to be aware of risks.

  25. “Once you cross that line into “addict”, there’s no going back. You’re an addict for life, and you’ll find it next to impossible to use in moderation.”

    Again, complete bullshit. The “line” is a line you’ve been fed at those 12 step meetings. It is not true, you CAN heal from drug or alcohol addiction and become a normal user. Yo usimply have to heal the CAUSE of the problem, not the symptom.

    I know there are paid lobbyists, but i am not one of them. Truthfully, i was an editor on Wikipedia, randomly adding info and general editing help when i ran across the “Medical Cannabis” page.

    It was then that i found out how amazing the healing properties were and the relative safety (0 deaths) of cannabis, and how this didn’t compute with the laws and the ideology of this country.

    The more I researched, the more info I found which eventually became the website, as it was not all appropriate for Wiki.

    When I see the injustice, literally people dying in prison, families broken apart by drug charges (even when one is dying of cancer and using it to help them medicinally), I feel a strong urge to act on behalf of Truth and for Justice.

    Cannabis needs support, it already has enough from the opposition. That is why my website is incredibly pro-cannabis.

    Also, for my own paralysis, it is the only medicine that has worked for me. The doctors gave me something for my spasms that caused me to feel as if i were viewing the world through 3 feet of cotton, horrible! I couldn’t feel awake no matter how much coffee I drank.

    For my hip pain (wheelchairs do this after awhile) i was given Bextra. Intuitively (yes, i use this rather than blindly following the law or doctors or anyone) I knew not to take it. I had the pill in my hand and something just told me NO. The next month it was revealed that 9 people had died from Bextra due to heart attacks.

    Cannabis relieves my spasms, without feeling drowsy, without feeling drugged, and relieves my pain by relaxing the tiny muscles (“peripheral”) that cause the pain due to tightness.

    We all have our story. The truth is, Cannabis is a natural and safe medicine. Compare it to any other medicine, and an unbiased observer would question it’s illegality, it’s placement on the drug scheduling chart as the MOST DANGEROUS, above cocaine.

    Looking further, you see that it’s prohibition was initiated by big business and a denial of the truth…

    From the history of pot prohibition:
    http://patients4medicalmarijuana.wordpress.com/history-of-marijuana-prohibition/
    “The American Medical Association opposed the (prohibition) on the grounds that there was no research or factual basis for a federal ban and the ultimate effect would be to inhibit
    any research into the medical uses of marijuana. The association’s position was ignored, and in June 1937 – without scientific evidence Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act, establishing the nationwide prohibition of marijuana that still exists today.”

    So this article comparing cannabis to heroin rings much like the BS that got my medicine this bad rap in the first place and I am sick of it.

  26. Samantha,
    You need to either stop misrepresenting my work or I will simply delete your comments.

    This post DOES NOT compare cannabis to heroin. Try reading it. It says that the rewarding effects of THC seems to be linked to activation of a specific opioid receptor.

    You can be dogmatic on your site and I’ll even let you do it here within a debate, but I won’t let you put words in my mouth.

  27. OK, last post,

    It is true for me that i can smoke everyday for years and suddenly stop, with only a feeling of more clarity showing up. No flu, no unpleasant symptoms.

    You can choose to think I am lying, but this experience did happen just this past Spring.

    Also, I was a crack addict in my early years and went through all of the 12 step stuff, and it was great. But I found that I wanted to get to the WHY of my addiction, and started seeing a psychotherapist. After 4 years of therapy, I simply was not the same person. And to this day I prove the “once and addict/alcoholic always an addict…”

    I realize this goes against the current thought in the addiction treatment community, but this is my experience and it’s only fair to let people know that for some, addiction CAN be healed.

    Thank you for listening.

  28. Well there, we found something else we agree on (aside from the fact that marijuana has legitimate medicinal uses).

    I’m also an ex-addict who believes you can cure addiction. I used to smoke meth daily, went completely sober for 3 years and have been drinking socially for the past 5-6 years.

    Common ground is good.

  29. I am a former long-term cannabis user and addict.

    It a not natural and safe medicine- cannabis today is grown with very unnatural and downright dangerous chemicals. And can something that you inhale into your lungs actually be considered healthy?

    Do I believe that everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted? No. Do I believe that medical marijuana has its place? Sure. Do I want my kid to grow up thinking it’s okay to smoke pot? Hell no. And it is laughable to think that any cannabis user could be unbiased when it comes to the issues of marijuana use and addiction. I also have noticed how defensive cannabis users get when presented with the evidence. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. Let’s leave the research to the experts, shall we?

    Personally, I’d much rather invest my time and energy on genuinely healthy pursuits such as proper nutrition, exercise and clean living rather than defending the merits of cannabis use and that lifestyle.

    This is just my opinion, as someone who has been a recreational user and full-blown addict.

    For the record, I have nothing nice to say about 12-step programs. I use and recommend Lifering: http://www.unhooked.com.

    Michelle (Australia)

  30. I agree with you in principle, in that marijuana “may” be addictive to some people.

    However, my research has found that virtually all marijuana ‘addicts’ had a preemptive mental illness. One thing that researchers need to look at is the interaction of THC and CBN with already iffy neurotransmitters being caused by clinical depression (for example).
    In my experience an MJ user who has untreated depression is highly likely to be a very chronic MJ user. Which brings up an interesting phenomena: use of MJ seems to enhance depression after the THC/CBN are below a certain blood level. Looks like an endless loop. One enforces the other.
    Needless to say, both conditions need to be treated together.
    Now, here is an interesting effect: even when the patient has detoxed from MJ (say 6 months) and they are taking an SSRI, they can often still get tremendous cravings for “the high”. I ask myself: “is this a chemical craving or a ‘memory’ craving ?” … in that I feel that once you’ve reduced depression with MJ you will deeply remember how effective it could be.
    There is no doubt that THC/CBN have a temporary effect on helping with depression, but it doesn’t last and can enhance craving and anxiety later when it’s gone.
    That is one reason I don’t think MJ is good for treating most mental illnesses. Not enough is known about the tangle it can cause with neurotransmitters.

    But safe ? Sure. Probably fine for most folks who are screwed together well. But only in moderation. And for the under 18 (maybe 21) group: no no no…. too much brain growth (linkages) and programming taking place still.

    Just my opinion…

    p.s. someone was talking about MJ detoxing having somewhat profound physical effects. I’d make a wild guess that there is some other chemistry going on there. Perhaps a plant growth chemical or even an adulterant such as PCP.
    BTW, take a look at some studies done on ‘vaporizing’ MJ. May be fairly safe compared to smoking.

  31. Hey Richard,
    First of all, thanks for reading. It’s always nice to have a fellow scientist in the fold. I would love to read some of the research you’ve been involved in; feel free to contact me personally through the link above (“talk to me”).

    In regards to your comment, I’ve said many times on here that I believe addiction has quite a bit to do with different patterns of neurotransmission, especially in the prefrontal cortex and other gating, inhibitory, structures. I don’t like calling them faulty, but that’s just my thing.

    In regards to the detox, I think the reader was referring more to cognitive, not physiological withdrawal symptoms. However, as a behavioral neuroscientist, I think the distinction is a silly one. It would be like saying “I don’t have body aches, but my arm hurts.” I consider the brain as an integral, physical, part of the body. Therefore, any dysfunction in brain activity would be considered, by me, as a physiological symptom.

    Again, just my take on things.

    I’d be curious to hear your take on some of the other articles on the site.

    Hope you’ll come back.

    Adi

  32. what a hoax, its not addiction… will in a way it is but no..its something to look forward too, something to do and occupie your brain for a few hours, its a way to get a good nights sleep. these factors contribute to why people need it so much. its the ideots that smoke to many BONGS that get the fear and withdraw and all that crap.smoke joint and do something you love to do. youll be a much more open person with a free from influence outlook on life. and you will see what you normally do sobar in a different perspective and learn how to approach it differently and combine that together with who you know and bam you will be even better at it

  33. I’ve spent the last year researching marijuana and the politics surrounding it. This is a farce. The first thing that comes to my mind is “This guy is paid or compensated or has some interest in prolonging the lies we’ve all heard all our lives about marijuana.” The fact is study after study show marijuana to be non addictive. That’s why you see so many people, including our last 3 presidents, who use to use marijuana or did at some point in their lives. I doubt any of them remember the day they quit. It was a non event. We lock up more people than any country in history and a lot of VERY BAD people depend on us continuing to do the same. Land of the free? Not quite. Land of the Lobbyist? Absolutely!

    If there’s one small thing we can do to take our country back it’s to end so called “War on Drugs”. Get rid of anyone supporting it. If they’re supporting it, you can be sure they have a self interest they are serving. Hell with our American Children or Families or fairness or truth. “I don’t wanna lose my job or my funding” – Too bad. These bastards are the ones who should be imprisoned!

    You may wat to check out: http://www.youtube.com/user/garyworkman#p/a/f/0/Kv3j0ve_u6o

    1. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but instead of watching documentaries, why don’t you check out our post about research published on the matter right here.

      Also, I’ve included the reference for the research this post was based on now, so you can go look that up too.

  34. of course its not addictive i smoke it on aregular basis and there are certain points in the day when i dont and i dont feel the need to smoke it think about it its mixed with nicotine thats were the real addiction comes from

  35. I have been a very heavy smoker 8 joints a day of the super potent stuff! I have quit instantaniosly for 5 years when I was at a critical construction job and then again for a year and now I dont currently smoke . it is the easiest thing to quit totally non addictive! IT IS JUST A STUPID PLANT PEOPLE the older generation thinks MARIJUANA turns you into DR Jeckle it doesnt . It is a GODSENT to sick people give it a brake!

    1. Thanks for reading American. Once again, the notion that SOME people become addicted to marijuana has been confused with the idea that EVERYONE will get addicted to marijuana. I believe the former, not the latter.
      And I think you mean that the older generation thinks weed turns you into Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll was the good guy.

  36. I for one have never had a problem with quiting pot. I have had to do so for the sake of opperating heavy equipment. Alcohol is a different story – sweats, achy, tired, pissed off, and the list goes on. Marijuana could be addictive, but I do believe that there needs to be more of a controlled study on its affects, both positive and negative. Factors such as where does the plant come from, how it was grown, different strains, is it street weed or -organically grown from a trusted source- sensamillia. If a study is conducted by you neuroscientists in conjunction with us botanists and biologists, growing the plant as nature intended, this would be a great starting point to put an end to all these arguments. Honestly, as a complete advocate for marijuana, there needs to be more energy put towards the actual studies done in a controlled environment to find out the real effects rather than gathering pot-heads off the streets

    Also-where is the line for “addiction” and “drug”. Mentally, love is addictive. If we love someone and they die, we go through withdrawl. Physically, running is a drug. It makes you feel good so you keep running. Its this “inductive reasoning” that would put the argument that “addiction and drugs is/are bad” to the test (observing those with conditions such as Ataraxia and those of course who don’t like running).
    Great page – anytime you can inspire debate like this then we all learn a thing or two.

    1. Thanks for writing Pete. I’ve never made the argument that “drug are bad” and if you read some of my other posts like this one here you’ll see that I believe most people can handle drugs just fine. The problem occurs for those who can’t, and that’s my focus when I talk about addiction.
      Marijuana-based studies are conducted either with pure THC extracted in a lab or with pretty well standardized grown marijuana. Trust me when I tell you that no NIH supported marijuana research is done with street weed.
      There are people that suffer from severe marijuana withdrawal symptoms and for whom marijuana use becomes extremely compulsive. These are marijuana addicts, and they might be the minority, but they exist, like it or not. I think marijuana should be available for use for specific cases, though having been through my own addiction, I’m pretty sensitive to how “casual users” often use drugs for escape without ever stepping over to compulsive use. I’m not sure that this is healthy either, but as long as it’s not destroying their lives and they’re fine with it, it’s a free country.
      Thanks again for reading and writing. Let me know if you get funded for a study and I’ll be right there!

  37. Dr Jaffee, this discussion is a great example of how I would love to see ALL civilized discussions facilitated. You are open-minded, factual, and when stating YOUR opinion you make those exceedingly clear as you state them. I’ve followed all of your work, and have a special interest in research and findings on marijuana, because I have many relatives and former friends that use it and some are addicted and some aren’t. The newest response of yours for me on this page is how you address the way the users of marijuana are so defensive about their drug and it’s benefits, as well as their need for it to be legalized. They ARE truly offended when you bring up any facts that might be seen as reason for marijuana NOT to be legalized, because they notice that the harmful alcohol and tobacco drug usage has gone un-punished for so long and they feel slighted. I don’t feel they are suffering necessarily from feelings of guilt, shame or the stigma,,,they are MAD because if they can’t use openly, like alcohol and tobacco users do, they are feeling discriminated and they feel that marijuana is so HARMLESS, compared to alcohol and tobacco that their patience has run out on those that get in the way of legalization. I have commented on FB with teachers, doctors, and professionals, who are quite sweet until we get to the subject of their precious marijuana. I have felt the sting of their anger, and altho I can understand it, their bias doesn’t allow them to look at the entire picture and it clouds the facts for them, soooo…I think I will refrain from further comment and defer to YOU, the admired expert because I am not studied enough to address their defenses like you have in this discussion. Thank You for all this excellent info.

      1. Interesting, so when someone disagrees with you, they must not be “actually listening,” but if they do, they must be a coherent/logical thinker.

        The point is that if you’re going to address the potential for marijuana dependency, you might as well address EVERYTHING that lends itself to the same danger. When you pull marijuana out of the line-up, you should be ready to explain exactly what differentiates it from other potentially-addictive substances/activities. Until then, this all reads like some dusty-headed authoritarian shining his disgust upon an extremely petty issue.

    1. If I hovered over you and tried to say that something that’s such a harmlessly small portion of your life is devilish, you’d be just as annoyed, too. It’s like an overbearing Christian trying to tell me the music I listen to is a ticket to Hell. The argument is ridiculously petty. It’s like me saying “Sure, you can enjoy fingerpainting, but if you enjoy it too much, soon you’ll be skipping work just to fingerpaint, then you’ll ruin your life, kid.” It’s a total fear campaign. Chances are, if you’re letting something like marijuana ruin your life, you have many other problems that need to be addressed first.

      Sincerely,
      A PhD-Seeking Scholar with a 3.9 GPA.

  38. This article is misleading in that it does not expressly differentiate between physical and psychological addiction. Opiates and barbiturates are physically addictive. Other substances, and even activities, can be psychologically addicting. If Marijuana is addictive, then so is chocolate, oxygen, and religion. They all active the same, or similar, receptors. One could even activate these receptors from urinating or orgasms. But who’s ever heard of Breathers Anonymous?

    1. Dr. Blemaster, thank you for reading and commenting. But are you saying that oxygen and marijuana work by the same mechanism? I would argue that they work very differently and add that I have not, to date, had anyone come in complaining that breathing was causing them trouble (not breathing maybe) and that they would like to cut down. Finally, as you can read in another article I wrote, I think that the distinction between physical and psychological addiction is misleading – ALL addiction is physical as it takes place in the brain and body, which are very much physical. What you’re referring to is the concept of drugs causing physiological dependence, which marijuana does. The issue has to do with the metabolism and excretion of marijuana, which happens over long periods of time and therefore presents as less extreme than withdrawal from other drugs.

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