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4 Signs You're Addicted to Marijuana, Experts Warn

These red flags could mean you've lost control over your cannabis use.

With recreational marijuana use now legal in many states, many people are enjoying cannabis safely and guilt-free. But while many people use this popular psychoactive drug without any adverse effects, a study published in the Dec. 2015 issue of JAMA Psychiatry estimated that three in 10 people who habitually use cannabis have "marijuana use disorder," and a 2011 study found that frequent users have a 10 percent chance of becoming addicted to the drug.

Could your cannabis use be creating problems without you even realizing it? Read on to find out what behaviors and symptoms signal marijuana addiction, and how it could be impacting your quality of life.

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Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.

Woman with Lack of Interest
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Marijuana use disorder can cause a depressed mental state, including apathy, lack of motivation, irritability, loss of interest in daily activities, inability to concentrate, and feelings of isolation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "One of the strongest signs that a patient is addicted to marijuana is if their use gets in the way of their normal activities," says Andrea Paul, MD, a medical advisor at Illuminate Labs. "This could be as severe as a job loss, but it could also be [more minor] things like choosing to socialize less with certain friends who don't use marijuana."

The drug rehabilitation and education organization Narconon lists lack of motivation, enthusiasm, and poor decision-making as common signs of marijuana use disorder. As a result, activities that demand quick thinking and focus may no longer seem appealing and users may abandon them altogether. In extreme cases, the lack of initiative stemming from frequent marijuana use may progress to unemployment and missed work opportunities, negatively impacting your life. If this sounds like you, it may be time to reconsider your marijuana use.

Difficulty maintaining your relationships.

Couple Arguing

Do you have conflicts with family members about your drug use? Have you lost friends over marijuana? If you continue to get high despite the deterioration of your social life and close relationships, you may be on a path to addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Not surprisingly, the lack of interest associated with marijuana can cause people to put little to no effort into maintaining or developing relationships—especially if the people in those relationships disapprove of cannabis.

A Feb. 2020 study found that heavy marijuana use can cause difficulties with emotional awareness in some adolescents, characterized by a lack of empathy and an inability to connect with others emotionally. This is of particular concern to parents, since the health and development of children are dependent on the deep connection and emotional bond forged between parent and child. If you're a parent and often find yourself too high to be emotionally available to your child, it's time to make a change.

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Inability to focus and trouble remembering things.

Man Scratching His Head

The side effects of marijuana use disorder include impaired short-term memory, difficulty learning, decreased motor function, inattentiveness, and increased risky behaviors, such as driving while high and unprotected sex, according to the NIH. And according to Narconon, prolonged marijuana use can result in adverse mental conditions, such as anxiety, depression, poor memory, short-term psychosis, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

Any type of drug abuse causes a lack of awareness, so you may not even know the degree to which marijuana is affecting your mental state. If you notice a decline in your mental health, memory, or cognition, it may be time to seek help.

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Man suffering from insomnia lying in bed, can't sleep at 2 am, according to clock on nightstand

If you use marijuana daily, or almost daily, for at least two months, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop. Heavy marijuana users may experience three or more of the following symptoms when not using, according to the NIH: Irritability, anger, or aggression; nervousness or anxiety; sleep issues such as insomnia or disturbing dreams; decreased appetite or weight loss; restlessness; depression; fever or chills; and headache. In addition to these withdrawal symptoms, heavy marijuana users may experience severe adverse effects, such as stomach pain, nausea, lung irritation, panic attacks, shakiness/tremors, and hallucinations.

If you experience these symptoms but continue to use, that's a strong indication your marijuana use may be a problem. However, Paul explains, a qualified health professional is needed in order to make that call. "Ultimately, only a doctor or medically-credentialed addiction specialist can diagnose a marijuana addiction, and it cannot be diagnosed from symptoms alone," he says. "I'd recommend that patients who suspect they're addicted to marijuana speak with a medical expert about the best way to proceed."

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Adam Meyer, RHN
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more
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