Cannabis use disorder, or marijuana addiction, is when someone continues to use cannabis despite causing clinically significant impairment.  They become dependent on the drug and continue to use more as their tolerance increases. Marijuana use disorder is currently only treated through therapy.
What is cannabis use disorder?
Cannabis use disorder is when somebody is negatively affected by their continued use of cannabis without necessarily being addicted. People with this substance use disorder are usually dependent on the potentially addictive drug because of chemical changes in the brain and can experience withdrawal symptoms  such as:
Anxiety and depression
Trouble sleeping and restlessness
Marijuana addiction is usually linked to an increase in dosage over time because of the tolerance you build up as you take it more often. It is estimated to affect up to 10% of regular marijuana users. 
Effects of cannabis use disorder
The effects of marijuana addiction can be short-term and long-term. 
Short-term effects include:
Difficulty remembering things
Changes in mood
High dosages can cause hallucinations and psychosis
Long-term effects include:
Problems with brain development if used when young or during pregnancy
Difficulty breathing or coughing and irritability
Worsening of some mental disorders and illnesses
Symptoms and signs of cannabis use disorder
The symptoms of cannabis use disorder can be physical and behavioral. 
If you feel like you are craving cannabis regularly.
Your tolerance to cannabis and the desired effects builds up over time. You may need to increase your dose each time to have the desired effects.
You experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking cannabis, such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, and a decreased appetite. Cannabis withdrawal symptoms show up in half of people in treatment for the disorder. 
Behavioral symptoms negatively affect your daily life and may not always be as noticeable as physical symptoms. However, they can be just as harmful.
You continue using cannabis despite noticing the negative effects it is having on you.
It begins to cause social or relationship problems. This can include spending money on cannabis and missing out on social interactions because of your cravings.
Problems at work or school because of your cannabis use.
Spending excessive amounts of time using cannabis and not doing the activities that you usually enjoyed before the consumption started.
Taking cannabis in high-risk and high-stress situations as a way to calm your nerves or suppress withdrawal symptoms.
Long-term adverse effects
Marijuana use at a young age can alter brain development and lead to both mental and physical health complications in the future.
Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways that can cause shortness of breath and constant coughing.
Increased risk of other lung conditions and infections.
Higher likelihood of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or hallucinations, as well as psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. 
Diagnosing cannabis use disorder
To be diagnosed with cannabis use disorder, you must show at least two of the following 11 symptoms over the last 12 months according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), criteria 
Continued use despite physical or psychological problems
Continued use despite social or relationship problems
Neglecting social roles
Showing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit
Increasing tolerance to cannabis
Taking larger doses over time to feel the same effects
Repeated failed attempts to quit using cannabis
Spending a lot of your time using cannabis
Giving up normal activities or hobbies to take cannabis instead
Cravings for cannabis
Using cannabis hazardously, such as driving while under the influence
Your doctor may also assess how frequently you use cannabis to help with diagnosis . This includes episodic, continuous, or unspecified usage.
There are three severity levels used in diagnosis to help decide what treatment is necessary 
Mild: Two or three symptoms shown
Moderate: Four or five symptoms shown
Severe: Six or more symptoms shown
Causes of cannabis use disorder
Cannabis use disorder is usually caused by someone taking an increasing amount of the drug as their brain and body become more tolerant to it. Certain risk factors may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder if you start to take cannabis. These include:
Being prone to addiction. This can either be genetic or environmental. 
If you have a pre-existing mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.
Prevention of cannabis use disorder
Preventing cannabis use disorder can be difficult as most do not notice the symptoms until it is too late. However, there are some ways of preventing you or your loved one from developing the disorder.
Do not begin taking cannabis or any other recreational or illicit drug if you know you are prone to addiction. Being prone to addiction can be genetic or environmental. If your parent or close relative has a serious addiction, it may be in your best interest to avoid potentially addictive substances.
If you take cannabis for medical or personal reasons, then keep it in a closed container in a hidden place to prevent your children or pets from accessing it accidentally. 
Treatment for cannabis use disorder
In the U.S., the average person seeking treatment will have been taking cannabis regularly for over ten years and have attempted to quit multiple times. 
There is no medication currently available to treat cannabis use disorder. However, medical professionals can successfully treat it through psychological and therapeutic interventions. 
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Where a therapist will help you deal with the thoughts and triggers that have led to your addiction to marijuana, allowing you to form alternative responses to triggers that would usually make you want to use cannabis.
Contingency Management: This form of therapy works using incentives (such as vouchers or prizes) to help you stay on track and contain withdrawal symptoms.
Other forms of therapy, such as group therapy and self-help groups, may be helpful to some as it allows for conversations with other people going through similar symptoms and discussing how they deal with them.
Helping someone with cannabis use disorder
General barriers to the treatment of cannabis use disorder can include a lack of interest in treatment, a lack of motivation, and not knowing about the treatments available to them.  Therefore, if you know anyone showing symptoms of cannabis use disorder, encouraging and helping them find the resources needed for treatment can be extremely helpful.
Cannabis addiction can vary in severity. Be prepared for your loved one to not recognize their problems at first and reject your offers for help. Be firm while supportive, as escalating the situation into a potential conflict may lead them to refuse treatment altogether. They must recognize their addiction and want to stop themselves, as therapeutic methods rely on patient cooperation.
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Ethan Cullen is our expert writer passionate about mental health awareness. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University, Ethan's advocacy and exceptional writing skills empower individuals on their mental health journey.
Published: Nov 13th 2022, Last edited: Sep 22nd 2023
Dr. Leila Khursid is a dedicated medical reviewer on our Editorial Team with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and a PGY1 Pharmacy Residency at St. Mark's Hospital. Her commitment to education, excellence, and patient safety is invaluable to MentalHealth.com.
Content reviewed by a medical professional. Date reviewed: Nov 13th 2022
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