Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is the proper medical term used to describe marijuana addiction. You may also have heard this referred to as marijuana dependence, or marijuana use disorder. Regardless of the name, the core element of the addiction is the same—that is to say, a physical tolerance and dependence to marijuana that interferes with other domains of your life (APA DSM-5, 2013).
The occasional craving to smoke doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction. Needing to smoke in order to avoid certain symptoms, though, should be a warning sign that your body is dependent on marijuana to feel normal.
When you don’t smoke, the constellation of physical symptoms and mental discomfort that you feel is collectively called withdrawal. The following statements are typical of someone who has either tolerance or withdrawal.
- Tolerance: I have to use a lot more marijuana than I used to in order to feel any effects.
- Withdrawal: I become irritable, have poor sleep, and feel physically uncomfortable if I don’t smoke regularly.
Most people who use marijuana don’t develop a use disorder off the bat. Tolerance develops insidiously, meaning you often don’t notice that you’ve doubled how much or how frequently you smoke until someone else points it out.
Similarly, people oftentimes become blind to all of the ways in which their marijuana use has taken over their lives. Maybe you’ve had disagreements with loved ones, colleagues, or employers about your marijuana use. Maybe you’ve lost track of time while smoking and missed an important appointment or personal obligation. Maybe you then smoke because you feel lonely, distressed, or stressed out.
Confronting your habits surrounding marijuana can be scary but is a huge step towards getting better. Answering the following yes/no statements as honestly as possible will help you gain a sense of whether or not you have a problematic pattern of marijuana use:
- I often end up using more, or more frequently, than I intend.
- I have tried to cut down how much I smoke but haven’t been successful.
- I spend a majority of my day to day thinking about, using, or obtaining marijuana.
- I frequently have strong urges or cravings to smoke.
- Marijuana has interfered with my responsibilities at school, work, or at home.
- My marijuana use has created tension in my personal relationships, but I continue to smoke.
- Marijuana has replaced my other hobbies and has made me less social.
If you said yes to at least two of the above statements, and agreed with statements about tolerance and withdrawal, you likely have cannabis use disorder. Recognizing that you have a disorder can be hard, especially when loss of self-control is part of the condition.
Just remember that putting a name and diagnosis to the overall picture is empowering yourself, and that you’re doing the right thing by acknowledging a problem in your life. If you have cannabis use disorder, and want to get better, there’s no better time to find out how—just take a deep breath and keep reading.
Brian Canfield, Ed.D.
Professor, Counselor Education at Florida Atlantic University. Founder of the International Association of Psychology and Counseling.
Weedless.org is a free, web-based resource and community created by a team of healthcare professionals and researchers. We distill the facts about marijuana use and its effects into practical guidance for interested persons or for those who are thinking about or struggling to quit weed. Finding reliable, easy to understand information about marijuana should never be a struggle—that is why our core mission is to provide the most up to date information about marijuana use, abuse, addiction, and withdrawal. While we seek to empower individuals to have control over their use, we are not “anti-weed” and we support efforts to legalize adult marijuana use and study.