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5 Myths About Marijuana Addiction, Debunked

By Zawn Villines
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on December 04, 2021
Marijuana addiction is a real diagnosis, not a myth or a personal failing.

Marijuana remains one of the most popular recreational drugs. As states relax their marijuana regulations, cannabis use is rising. In 2018, use of the drug by college students reached its highest rate in 35 years. 

The debate around marijuana use continues to be politicized, with people on both ends of the continuum of beliefs advocating extreme and unsupported positions. While it is a myth that marijuana has no valid medical use, it is also a myth that marijuana is harmless. Marijuana addiction is real, and it can have catastrophic effects on your life. 

Myth 1: Marijuana Addiction Isn’t Real 

Any drug that changes the brain can be addictive, and marijuana is no exception. Some people have physical withdrawal symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and trouble sleeping. Psychological cravings can be intense, and may last for weeks or months. Moreover, some people may have mental health conditions that they use cannabis to mask. Without marijuana, symptoms of depression, anxiety, or severe insomnia may get worse—especially if you do not seek appropriate mental health treatment. 

Myth 2: You Can’t Go Through Marijuana Withdrawal 

A 2020 review of observational studies in the journal JAMA Network Open suggests that about 47% of people who regularly use or are addicted to marijuana experience physical withdrawal symptoms. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists cannabis withdrawal syndrome as a mental health condition. The most common symptoms include: 

  • Anger, aggression, and irritability
  • Anxiety or jittery feelings 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling restless
  • Depression
  • Headaches and other pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach problems
  • Sweating

Myth 3: Marijuana Is Always Safe 

A marijuana overdose is very unlikely. That’s why some medicinal marijuana advocates have claimed that marijuana is always safe. This misleads about the effects of marijuana intoxication. 

“There has been little media attention to the car accidents and traffic deaths related to marijuana use,” says Irene Little, a psychotherapist, “although it is the number one drug, other than alcohol, found in all fatal car crashes in Texas.” Little emphasizes that marijuana also increases the risk of birth defects when pregnant women use it. 

Myth 4: Marijuana Addiction Is Very Rare 

Marijuana addiction is not rare. Instead, it may be less visible since cannabis is legal in many states and marijuana is less likely than other drugs to cause dangerous overdoses. An estimated 30% of marijuana users have some degree of what is known as a use disorder. 

Myth 5: Marijuana Is a Safe Alternative to Some Medications When Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Pregnant and breastfeeding women may worry about the effects of pain medication, antidepressants, and other drugs on a developing baby. But there’s no evidence that cannabis is a safer alternative. Marijuana crosses the placenta, which means the baby gets a dose of the drug. Several studies have correlated marijuana use when pregnant to a higher risk of birth defects and bad pregnancy outcomes. 

Marijuana also gets into breastmilk. Scientists do not have enough data on marijuana and breastfeeding to know if it is safe, so there is no reason to believe it is safer than well-tested medications. 

Get Help Now

Marijuana addiction treatment can help you regain control over your life, and may even mean you live longer and healthier. WebMD Connect to Care specialists are standing by and ready to help you find the right support. 

Treatment & Resources for Marijuana Addiction