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Is Weed a Drug?

4 minute read

Yes. Marijuana is a mind-altering drug that is currently listed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This means it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. The designation is not without controversy, especially in the wake of widespread legalization of the drug for both medical and recreational use in many states. However, while it’s true that you can’t become physically dependent on weed in the same ways as you can with drugs like opioids, marijuana research shows that the effects of cannabis can be psychologically addictive. Chronic marijuana users may even have withdrawal symptoms when they quit.

Why Is Weed Considered a Drug?

Substances are considered psychoactive drugs when they act on the central nervous system to temporarily alter mood, consciousness, perception, and behavior. Marijuana’s main active ingredient is THC, a mind-altering chemical that does just that. Weed also has potential to become addictive. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • 30% of regular marijuana users may exhibit characteristics of a marijuana addiction.
  • Marijuana is the top three most used addictive drugs.
  • A risk of marijuana use is how it may precede use of other illicit drugs (some people call this a “gateway drug”).
  • 4% of high school seniors say they vape THC daily.

A key indicator of substance use disorders is continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. People who have a marijuana use disorder may continue to use the drug despite circumstances that its use has contributed to like:

  • Job loss or poor work performance
  • Relationship issues
  • Financial problems
  • Legal issues
  • Medical problems
  • Mental health changes

Another sign of addiction is having withdrawal symptoms when you don’t smoke weed. Some chronic marijuana users may experience the following withdrawal symptoms when they quit using weed:

  • Hallucinations
  • Marijuana cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach issues

Why Don’t Some People Consider Weed a Drug?

Marijuana use is on the rise. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 48.2 million people reported using marijuana in 2019. By comparison, 25.8 million people reported using it in 2002. The survey also found that daily marijuana use is up in the 26 and older population.

There are many proponents of marijuana. Some people feel that the effects of marijuana have helped their medical or psychological conditions.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following medical uses:

  • THC-based medications to treat nausea in cancer patients.
  • THC-based medications to stimulate appetites in AIDS patients.
  • CBD-based medications to treat severe childhood epilepsy.

There is continued debate about changing marijuana’s legal status on the federal level. Some federal politicians are pushing to remove marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which has also diluted some people’s view of marijuana as a “legitimate” and dangerous drug. Research also shows that there are some people — especially teenagers — who don’t think marijuana is harmful because of its normalization in recent years due to legalized recreational and medical use.

Is Weed Addictive?

Yes, some people find marijuana addictive. The DSM-5 defines Cannabis Use Disorder as having at least two of the below problematic patterns of marijuana use within a 12-month timeframe:

  • Inability to control or cut down on cannabis use and often using more marijuana than intended.
  • Needing more marijuana to get the desired effect
  • Marijuana cravings and urges to use.
  • Expending a lot of time obtaining marijuana, using it, or recovering from marijuana’s effects.
  • Using marijuana in situations that could cause physical harm to yourself or others.
  • Using marijuana for longer periods of time than intended.
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies or social activities.
  • Cannabis use interferes with home, work, or school responsibilities.
  • Having issues with relationships of social situations due to marijuana use.
  • Experiencing marijuana withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it or using marijuana to stave off withdrawal symptoms.
  • Continuing to ingest or smoke marijuana even though it could be worsening a psychological or physical problem.

How Do You Treat Marijuana Addiction?

Substance abuse treatment for marijuana is similar to other drugs. Whatever the substance, the root causes of alcohol and drug abuse often share common factors like:

  • PTSD / complex trauma
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Difficult early relationships
  • Low self-worth
  • Socioeconomic factors

Addiction treatment helps you address these difficulties in a safe, accepting space, guided by behavioral health specialists. Once you know why you’re using drugs and alcohol and begin healing from that, you may feel less of an urge to use them. You may find you need both behavioral therapy and medication to help you manage mental illness symptoms of depression or anxiety that could be fueling marijuana abuse. Trauma therapies like EMDR can help you mend past trauma wounds so you can move forward.

Identifying the reasons why you’re self-medicating with substance abuse is the first step. You must develop healthy coping skills, so that when emotional discomfort arises, you have something else to turn to other than drugs and alcohol. Addiction and mental health treatment for co-occurring disorders will help you do so.

Looking for Help?

Footprints to Recovery treatment centers provide evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders that’s effective, engaging, and compassionate. We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, dual diagnosis treatment, and a wide range of therapies so you can find what approaches best support you on your recovery journey. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to marijuana or other substance abuse issues, call us today for a free, confidential consultation. We can help.


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