Cannabis can definitely create dependence or be habit-forming, but the debate you might have heard is about this being classified as an “addiction” or not.

This is because in some cases, psychological dependence (things like cravings, anxiety or depression when you haven’t used a day or two) but not physical dependence will occur, so some might not see this experience as full-blown addiction.  However, in some cases there may be physical signs of withdrawal such as abdominal pain, shakiness and headaches. These are less common.

Cannabis dependence may also seem much less extreme than addiction to other drugs.

“In the beginning it was if friends had it… to buying… to once in awhile… to once to twice a week… to everyday then to several times a day.”

However, no matter how you call it, cannabis use can definitely be addictive and lead to cannabis use disorder in approximately 1 in 10 users. Considering that about 15% of Canadians over 15 (or 4.4 million people) are past-year cannabis consumers, this amounts to 440,00 people. Younger age of initiating cannabis use and use of high THC (also known as high potency) cannabis increases the risk. This proportion is less than some other drugs like alcohol or tobacco, but is definitely still considerable, especially when those risk factors get piled on.

“I was smoking weed all day everyday to deal with my problems instead of dealing with them in real life.”

People who are dependent on cannabis will generally experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using, such as anxiety, a strong sense of uneasiness, sleep disturbances, irritability, loss of appetite and in some cases, aggressive behaviour.

Unfortunately, we do not currently have effective treatments for cannabis use disorders. Addiction to any drug is a tricky situation to deal with – in part because of the heavy stigma associated with it. However, getting informed (by reading this answer, for example!) is a great first step in demystifying addiction.

If you want to take a closer look at some indicators of problematic cannabis use (which can, in some cases, happen before addiction or dependence), you can  read more about the subject here or check out our resources section.