Is Marijuana Addictive? And 5 Other FAQs for the Weed Curious


Smoking marijuana is a growing pastime for many parents who need a break. But how much do you really know about that pot you’re putting in your body? Lots of people use drugs without knowing everything — or even the basics — about how they work. But there are some crucial questions you should know the answers to. Is weed addictive? Can you overdose on marijuana? What’s the safest kind of pot? Whether you’ve been smoking since college or are only recently getting into cannabis, this is what you need to know.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

For those who indulge in pot, there is a small risk of addiction, says Sarah Mann, a physician at the Mindful Medicine Clinic. About one in 10 people who use marijuana will develop an addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, for those who started using cannabis before they were 18, that number increases to one in six.

Marijuana addiction is referred to as marijuana use disorder, and people with this condition have varying symptoms. Some experience a dependence on cannabis and can’t function without it. They may also develop a tolerance, and they’ll need more weed than they used to to get the same high. Others face withdrawal symptoms when they go without pot, including anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, mood swings, and aggression.

However, not everyone who is addicted to marijuana has dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. Rather, the hallmark of addiction is not being able to stop using weed even though it’s having negative consequences on your life, such as by causing health, family, work, and legal problems.

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

In the sense that overdosing means taking too much of a drug, it is possible, Mann says. “You will be uncomfortably stoned for a duration of time depending on what you took, maybe even a day, and you will sleep it off,” she says. Symptoms may include extreme confusion, paranoia, panic, hallucinations, severe nausea, and vomiting, according to the CDC. Medical treatment is typically not necessary.

However, it’s extremely unlikely that a person will die from accidentally using too much weed. “What you will not have is a dangerous overdose or a fatal overdose,” Mann says. In fact, there are no reported cases of deaths solely attributed to marijuana. Because weed doesn’t suppress breathing — there are no cannabinoid receptors in the part of the brain that controls your breaths — you should be okay no matter how much you take.

What’s the Difference Between Indicas vs. Sativas?

Indicas are, supposedly, strains of weed that help a person chill out, and sativas leave them feeling a bit more energized. But Mann says you shouldn’t rely on whether a strain is an indica or sativa when picking out pot. “It’s an outdated, archaic system,” she says. “It really is more descriptive of what environment they grow in — not what chemicals are in the plant.”

The chemicals in the cannabis, particularly the cannabinoids and terpenes, determine what kind of high you get. But the terms “indica” and “sativa” don’t describe the chemical composition of weed strains. Those terms actually have to do with the shape of the plant. Sativa marijuana comes from tall, narrow-leaf plants, and indica comes from short, broad-leaf plants, according to Leafly.

Instead of shopping for an indica or sativa, Mann recommends dispelling the myth from your mind and trying new varieties to find out what you like. “Experiment with different plants and different CBD-to-THC ratios, and see what works for you,” she says.

Is Marijuana a Depressant? 

Yes, marijuana is classified as a depressant. This means that weed calms down the body’s central nervous system, slowing brain function and making a person feel more relaxed. Alcohol is another example of a depressant.

However, cannabis isn’t just a depressant. It’s also a stimulant, meaning that it increases energy and alertness and elevates mood.

But pot isn’t just a depressant and a stimulant. It’s also a hallucinogen; it can alter the user’s sense of reality. For people who smoke weed, this may happen in the form of heightened sensory perception, such as seeing brighter colors.

What’s Safest: Smoking, Vaping, Edibles, or Tinctures?

Different methods of using weed pose different risks and benefits. Smoking pot is bad for lung health, according to the American Lung Association. Researchers aren’t entirely positive about how harmful it is because most research that’s been done on smoking has been on cigarettes. However, some research suggests that smoking marijuana may not cause lung cancer, but it could lead to COPD and emphysema, among other lung conditions, Mann says. 

Vaping is relatively new, so there are many unknowns about how it affects health in the long run. However, early research shows that any amount of vaping probably causes lung damage. Vaping has already spurred two major public health outcries, Mann says. First, scientists found that artificial flavors in vaping liquid lead to a chemical byproduct called acetals, which may harm the body. Second, vitamin E oil in vapes is connected to lung injury that has killed at least 68 people in the US and hospitalized nearly 3,000 people.

Edibles are less likely to pose a health issue. However, they do present a challenge with getting high: The body doesn’t consistently absorb the weed in edibles. “If you have an edible with the exact same dose three days in a row, you can have three entirely different effects,” Mann says. You could take the perfect dose and get overly stoned, or not feel as relaxed as much as you were hoping. Effects may not kick in for up to two hours after consuming the edible.

Hard candy, sublinguals, and tinctures are easier to work with, Mann says. They give you a more reliable reaction, and their effects last longer than the effects of smoking.

Is Marijuana Good for Sleep?

This is a controversial question that doesn’t yet have a great answer. Some doctors who work with cannabis say that it works for treating a variety of sleep issues. “For the most part, both THC and another cannabinoid called CBN are good for sleep,” Mann says. She hasn’t received a sleep complaint from a marijuana-using patient yet.

However, the evidence for marijuana’s effects on sleep is mixed. Some studies suggest that it may improve sleep quality in the short term, but in the long term, it’s a disruptor. Researchers in one study found that cannabis use decreased the number of times people woke up in the middle of the night, but frequent use was linked to trouble falling and staying asleep in the long term, according to Medscape.

However, studies have provided mixed results overall, so the jury is still out on whether marijuana improves sleep.

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