Coming to terms with the possibility that you might have a problem with addiction takes a lot of courage, because the question of what comes next is a scary one: do I need help? Is there something wrong with me? What if I can’t overcome? What would life even be like without weed? For more information on a free guided program to help you overcome addiction, click here.

The Difference Between Dependency and Addiction

If you are still not sure whether you are addicted to marijuana, the answer is that you are in good company of folks trying to figure out what constitutes marijuana addiction. And it can be hard. Due to the inconsistency with the language used to describe drug and alcohol addiction and the heavy influence of popular opinion on the subject, it is challenging to define exactly what Addiction is and what it looks like.

“Dependency” is often used to explain the physiological effects of smoking weed, whereas “Addiction” is meant to explain the psychological effects and your behavior around obtaining and using the drug.

If you were to consult a health professional, a physician or a psychologist would help you evaluate your mental health whether you are experiencing symptoms of a Substance Abuse Disorder. This language can sound scary for fear that it implies something wrong with you or your brain. But it merely attempts to explain and validate your experience and determine whether your dependency on the drug is mild or severe.

But if you’re like me and you like to figure things out on your own, or if you’re strapped for cash and seeking the opinion of a health professional is not an option, then you can assess yourself right here and determine whether the severity of your drug use is something you should seek help for.

But Weed Addiction is Less Harmful, Right?

Generally speaking, the experience of dependency on smoking weed tends to be less severe than other drugs like alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or opiods. Individuals with dependency issues meet fewer DSM-5 diagnostic criteria, the marijuana withdrawal experience is less extreme, and the severity of physiological effects of marijuana abuse are not as dramatic.

However, this perception that smoking weed is less harmful, or not addictive, likely contributes to an individual’s rapid progression toward dependency or abuse, because cannabis is not a harmless drug to many people who use.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the standard manual used by health practitioners in the United States. In the DSM-5 Cannabis is listed as among the ten classes of drugs related to Substance Abuse Disorder. It is listed alongside alcohol and other substances. What this means is that the drug is medically known to be an issue for some users.

Most of the people who smoke weed, about 91%, do not develop problems with dependency and addiction. And because these individuals cannot conceive that another person could become addicted to a drug they can easily stop using, that majority sways popular opinion. Legalization of marijuana in so many states just furthers the idea that weed is not a problem drug and weed addiction isn’t an issue. And yet, it is not difficult for people to understand that the majority, 85% of people who use alcohol can do so without developing problems with addiction.

Professionals in the health field know that all drugs, including pot, taken in excess have direct activation of the brain reward system, which affects behavior. There are cannabinoid receptors in the brain that are activated by cannabis that lead to a series of reactions in your brain that lead people to see things differently when they are high. You could say that the weed actually tricks your brain into reacting as if the marijuana is needed by it to feel normal in heavy users.

A mental health professional would look at the cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms that indicate why you keep using the drug despite substance-related problems. And rather than calling you an “addict,” they would help you determine the mildness or severity of your condition and offer treatment options.

You’ll find below the 11 symptoms, or signals, that you may struggle with a Substance Abuse Disorder, along with a rating system to help you identify the mildness or severity of your individual experience.

Why Does Pot Affect Me Differently Than Most People?

Roughly 9% of people who smoke weed develop problems with marijuana addiction.  And according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), due to the sheer numbers of people who try pot compared to other drugs, that 9% works out to a hell of a lot of people.

It bears mentioning that people who experience co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety disorders or depression, are more prone to long-term drug abuse and addictive behaviors and may find it necessary to seek help in rehab centers. Many people take prescription drugs for these disorders such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds, and so it is easy to conclude those who self-medicate may more easily develop a psychological dependence because they rely on it to alter behavior and mood.

It is also common for smokers to combine substances such as drinking alcohol while you are high.

Facing these potential realities can be frightening. But there must be a point at which you look at the larger picture of why you are smoking so much pot. It can be healing to acknowledge that excessive use of any addictive drug or alcohol is an insufficient solution to whatever issue may lead you to self-medicate and in fact leave you worse off.

It is not easy to work through psychological and emotional issues to discover why you smoke weed and why it is so hard to quit. Deciding to seek help and quit is a courageous step toward understanding your marijuana abuse and facing the real circumstances of your life.

How Do I Know If I’m Addicted to Marijuana?

The severity of drug addiction can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of symptom criteria you identify with. It may help to grab a piece of paper and keep track of which symptoms affect you in order to gain a clearer picture of your issues with pot.

This is not an official diagnostic assessment. The system provided here is for your own self-knowledge to inform and empower yourself to take the next steps necessary for you.

Because of this reason, it only benefits you to be as honest with yourself as possible.

The range of severity is measured as follows:

  • Presence of two or three = Mild
  • Presence of four to five = Moderate
  • Presence of six or more = Severe

If any of the following describes your experience with pot, then mark ‘Yes’. At the end, count the number of symptoms that affect you. This will help you approximate the severity of your marijuana abuse.

     Using more cannabis than originally intended

Think back to when you began smoking pot. You likely did not have it in your mind that this was a habit you were going to take up wholeheartedly. Now think about the progression, how it happened that you now find yourself smoking more pot than you ever wanted to begin with. Can you trace a progression toward using alone and more frequently throughout the day such that it began to interfere with daily functioning?

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience

     You are unable to cut down or stop despite many efforts

According to the NIH, many adults who seek treatment for drug addiction average more than 10 years of near-daily use and about 6 serious attempts to quit. If you are unable to stop on your own, this may signal to you that a significant change must be made and that you will likely need support of some kind.

  1. Yes, this describes my experience

No, this does not describe my experience

     You devote a great deal of time getting it, using it, and recovering from it

How we spend the majority of our time defines what is important to us. Think about it. That is not to say that you are shallow if pot is very important to you. But it is necessary to ask, why is smoking marijuana, waiting to get high, or thinking about getting high so important to you? What happens when you are not high that is so unbearable?

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     You experience strong cravings or urges to smoke

Generally speaking, ‘craving’ suggests a strong desire to smoke and ‘urge’ suggests a dire need to smoke pot. Do you find that your desire or your need to smoke pot takes precedent over many of your daily responsibilities? Do you find yourself craving or experiencing urges so strongly that it prevents you from experiencing or enjoying various elements of your life?

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience  

     Heavy use keeps you from major obligations with work, school, or home life

Increasing dependence on the drug results in an inability to fulfill major obligations that demand a large amount of your time and energy. Many feel that they need to get high in order to cope with life’s pressures. If this is true for you, it may be a sign of drug abuse or dependency.

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     Continuing to use despite problems caused by cannabis use

If your drug use creates problems with work or relationships, it may be a sign of abuse. For instance, if you are in danger of losing your job, or a family member or spouse is signaling that your use is damaging to the relationship, yet you continue to use pot, this behavior is a form of self-sabotage.

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     You need more and more to feel intoxicated, high tolerance

First-time smokers need only a small hit in order to feel a dramatic sense of the intoxicating effects of marijuana. Similarly, prolonged abstinence will ensure a return to smoking weed will require a smaller amount for you to feel intoxicated. Naturally, if you are a daily user, you require an increased amount in order to feel the desired effects.

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     You tend to use cannabis in physically hazardous situations

According to a study conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, regular users are less apt to be mellow and are more likely to participate in violent actions. This may have a lot to do with the places one needs to go to find weed in states where the drug is still illegal. It may also have something to do with other emotional disturbances that are underlying factors for smoking weed in the first place.

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     You continue to smoke knowing the physical and psychological problems it has caused you

Even though you know smoking weed is disrupting your life and causing health problems, or is a threat to your mental or emotional wellness, you still can’t seem to find the way to quit successfully. This can be incredibly frustrating as it feels there are two sides of you at war and you don’t know why one side is winning over the other.

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     You’ve given up social or professional activities as a result of increased use

Perhaps, over time, you have neglected friends and family. You have dropped particular hobbies or sports that were once important to you. Maybe you have stopped advancing in your career or have not progressed in your personal life in the ways you would have wanted. Think about your weekly schedule. How much time is spent doing things you’re proud of versus the amount of time you spend getting high?

  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience 

     You experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or cut down

Cannabis-Induced Withdrawal Syndrome is significant enough that it has been given its own set of diagnostic criteria in the newly revised DSM-5. If the drug is taken to reduce or relieve withdrawal symptoms, this is a sign of substance abuse. Experiencing three or more of the following withdrawal symptoms signifies dependency or drug abuse issues:

  • Irritability, anger, or aggression
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Sleep difficulty, such as insomnia or disturbing dreams
  • Restlessness
  • Depressed mood
  • Any one or more physical experiences: abdominal pain, shakiness/tremors, sweating, fever, chills, or headache
  • Yes, this describes my experience
  • No, this does not describe my experience

So Where Do I Go From Here?

Now, add up the number of symptoms that align with your experience to determine the level of severity of your dependency. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway:

It will require a health professional, namely a psychiatrist, to provide an official diagnosis of Substance Abuse Disorder, as such a diagnosis is contingent on many factors that only a licensed professional is qualified to determine.

Recently many developments have been made in discovering the benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which includes some promising findings that CBD oil may be used alongside treatment and reduction of drug use to support addiction recovery. Many people have found CBD to be an effective substitute for prescription drugs. In fact, CBD oil, also known as Hemp oil is being talked about in all the quitting weed forums.

CBD is the second most abundant chemical in marijuana next to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD has been suggested to be antagonistic to the psychoactive properties of THC in the central nervous system and therefore reduces its effects. This may be utilized in the quitting process to augment your ability to successfully quit smoking weed and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. To learn more about using CBD oil to quit weed.

Whatever you may have learned by taking this informal evaluation does not have to signal a scary conclusion. On the contrary, it is my sincere belief that this kind of self-awareness is a significant and meaningful step toward quitting weed and could very help get you started on the road to recovery from marijuana addiction.

This website and its materials exist so that you may have solid footing to stand on once you finally take that step. There are many invaluable sources here designed to give you the support you need to find your way to a weed-free life, not the least of which is our free, comprehensive guide Your Life Without Weed, which has helped many people successfully quit smoking.