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Cannabis-use dependency: Not just blowing smoke




Staarla Heaney hand rolls marijuana cigarettes at the San Francisco Patients Cooperative, a medical cannabis cooperative, July 25, 2002 in San Francisco, California.
Staarla Heaney hand rolls marijuana cigarettes at the San Francisco Patients Cooperative, a medical cannabis cooperative, July 25, 2002 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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If you’ve had enough conversations with cannabis advocates, you’ve probably heard at least one of them mention some iteration of “marijuana isn’t addictive” as a reason supporting legalization.

But how much do we know scientifically about the potential habit or dependency forming properties of cannabis? Can you become physically and psychologically dependent on marijuana the same way you can to other drugs like opioids?

The answer is complicated. The number of Americans who are self-report a cannabis use disorder has doubled since the early 2000s, and the number of Americans who say they use it every day has gone up 50 percent in that same time frame. So why are more people using cannabis every day? For starters, it’s easy to get, especially in states like California where it has been legalized for recreational use. The legalization movement also means that social acceptance of cannabis use is more common. And the product people are smoking? It’s not exactly your granddaddy’s weed. The plant itself as well as products made from it are being engineered to be more potent. But because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, there is little hard evidence outside of national survey results that can point to factors like ease of access or product potency as having a direct link to cannabis use disorder.

If you self-identify as having a cannabis use disorder or have in the past, or you know someone who has, what made you realize that your daily use was forming a dependency? How did you go about addressing it? What kinds of treatments are available to those who develop a cannabis dependency? Join the conversation at 866-893-5722.

Guests:

Ziva Cooper, associate professor of clinical neurobiology in psychiatry at Columbia University, where she studies the adverse and therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids; she tweets @zivacooper

Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University; he served as senior policy advisor for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009-2010 and is a member of the steering committee of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy in California; he tweets @KeithNHumphreys