Contrary to popular belief, people can become addicted to cannabis. Continued, frequent and heavy cannabis use can cause physical dependency and addiction.
Some people can develop tolerance to the effects of cannabis. Tolerance is characterized by a need for larger doses of a drug to maintain the same effects. Tolerance can develop after a few doses. In some people, tolerance can eventually lead to physical dependence and/or addiction.
Addiction can develop at any age, but youth are especially vulnerable because their brains are still developing.
Some people are also more prone to becoming addicted than others. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 who use cannabis will develop a problem with their use. It’s also estimated that 1 in 11 (9%) of those who use cannabis will develop an addiction to it. This statistic rises to about 1 in 6 (17%) for people who started using cannabis as a teenager. If a person smokes cannabis daily, the risk of addiction is 25% to 50%.
Problematic cannabis use can include some or all of these behaviors:
- failing to fulfill major duties at
- giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of cannabis use
- consuming it often and in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
- being unable to cut down on or control cannabis use
If you show most or all of these behaviors over a 12-month period you may have cannabis addiction.
Comparison with other substances
All substances that affect the mind carry their own set of risks and harms, some unique to the substance. The most well-established, long term harm of regular cannabis use is addiction. It is often difficult to compare risks and harms between substances. Nevertheless, based on what is currently known, the risk of cannabis addiction is lower than the risk of addiction to alcohol, tobacco or opioids. And, unlike substances such as alcohol or opioids where overdoses may be fatal, a cannabis overdose is not fatal.