One of the most controversial debates that arises over cannabis is whether it is addictive or merely habit forming. This controversy is more complex than either side of the argument would have people believe. There are those who are in opposition to marijuana use who argue that it is entirely addictive because they have seen their kids or loved ones fall into its clutches and never be the same again. There are those who are in defense of marijuana use who cite medical studies that claim marijuana is the most beneficial drug we can put into our bodies, and that it does not have addictive properties. So which side is correct?
It is true that marijuana can be addictive to some people. Addiction is defined as anything that a person places at an unproportionate level of importance. That makes addiction psychological even when it is not chemical. Therefore, anything that gives pleasure can become addictive to certain people. Addiction is as much in the mind as it is in the chemistry. The underlying cause of addiction comes from inhibited dopamine production. Dopamine is the chemical the brain releases when it is experiencing pleasure. Those who are unable to create it often turn to substances or activities that create it for them. The overarching reason that people use substances and activities excessively is due to their own brain function and is less about the addictive properties of the substance or activity.
Having said that, it is also true that marijuana is not addictive in the same way heroine or alcohol are. Substances like heroine and alcohol have addictive properties that make their users chemically dependent on them. A person who uses substances like this will become chemically tolerant of them and will have to increase their dosage in order to continue feeling their effects. However, taking in large amounts of alcohol or heroine will alter a person’s bodily chemistry to the point of making them physically dependent. Quitting them cold turkey can be extremely dangerous and will result in devastating symptoms. Marijuana has no such effect.