3 Factors Increase Risk for Marijuana Addiction
Researchers have identified at least three early warning signs of cannabis use disorder in habitual marijuana consumers.
Anyone who consumes marijuana or other forms of cannabis can potentially develop a diagnosable condition called cannabis use disorder, which covers both addicted and dysfunctional, non-addicted intake of the drug. Generally speaking, the chances of developing this condition are the highest in people who habitually consume marijuana/cannabis. In a study published in December 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from four U.S. universities examined the factors that make it more likely that any given person will develop a regular or habitual pattern of ongoing cannabis consumption.
Cannabis Use Disorder
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association eliminated the distinction between non-addicted substance abuse and physical dependence-based substance addiction. Chief among the reasons for this move is a widespread realization in the medical and research communities that issues of substance abuse and substance addiction often overlap or appear in more or less identical forms. The main term now used to identify abuse- and addiction-related symptoms is substance use disorder. Doctors use the term cannabis use disorder for diagnosable substance problems that stem from the consumption of marijuana, hashish or hashish oil (the three naturally occurring forms of cannabis).
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that at least one-quarter of all people who consume marijuana/cannabis every day or almost every day will eventually qualify for a cannabis use disorder diagnosis. However, the actual lifetime rate of the condition in this population subgroup may be as high as 50 percent. Teenagers also have a fairly high rate for cannabis use disorder (17 percent), whether or not they consume the drug habitually. The nationwide rate of diagnosis among the entire American population of marijuana/cannabis consumers is about 9 percent.
Potential Indicators of Marijuana/Cannabis Problems
There are 11 possible symptoms of cannabis use disorder, including such things as developing strong cravings for continued marijuana/cannabis consumption, experiencing withdrawal-related issues when marijuana/cannabis intake falls below a certain threshold, losing the ability to control marijuana/cannabis consumption, shirking responsibilities or obligations in favor of marijuana/cannabis use, repeatedly using marijuana/cannabis in risky situations and failing to modify marijuana/cannabis intake after experiencing serious problems related to that intake. Some people tend to consume the drug as part of an attempt to cope with “down” or “negative” mental states. Other potential psychological motivations for marijuana/cannabis consumption include the desire to enhance “up” mental states, the desire to fit in while taking part in social situations and the desire to conform to the spoken or unspoken rules of a peer group.
Factors Supporting Ongoing Use
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from Louisiana State University, the University of Houston, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of North Dakota looked at the factors that make it more or less likely than any given marijuana/cannabis user will consume the drug on any given day. A total of 93 cannabis-consuming adults took part in this project; the vast majority of these individuals (87.1 percent) had symptoms that would qualify them for a cannabis use disorder diagnosis. The researchers assessed factors for each participant that included the underlying psychological motivations for consuming cannabis/marijuana, the amount of cannabis/marijuana consumed by drug-using peers in a two-week timeframe, the “negative” or “positive” impact of the drug on mood, the presence of cannabis/marijuana withdrawal symptoms and the presence of cannabis/marijuana cravings.
After reviewing their findings, the researchers concluded that craving and withdrawal levels go up on days when marijuana/cannabis consumers use the drug. Just before consuming marijuana/cannabis, users of the drug also experience a spike in craving and withdrawal levels, as well as a spike in the “positive” or “negative” emotional states they associate with the drug. After consuming marijuana/cannabis, craving levels, withdrawal levels and “negative” emotional states typically subside to one degree or another. People who have underlying social or coping motivations for consuming the drug typically have more problems with withdrawal and “negative” emotional states than other users. In addition, the researchers concluded that the odds of using marijuana/cannabis clearly go up when other members of a peer group also use the drug.
The study’s authors believe that their findings indicate that three specific factors—the presence of cravings, the presence of withdrawal symptoms and the influence of a peer group—have the greatest impact on the chances that an individual will fall into an ongoing pattern of marijuana/cannabis intake capable of triggering cannabis use disorder.