Chronic marijuana use is commonly labeled as marijuana use disorder. Like most drugs, including alcohol, the use of marijuana and its addictive potential begin with the brain.
Large amounts and chronic use of marijuana have a direct effect on neurotransmitters in the brain and its ability to reproduce natural chemicals. The brain becomes desensitized when large quantities are present, hindering the natural endocannabinoid system. THC will attach itself to the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system throughout the body. This system is part of many physiological processes like mood, memory, and appetite.
Although excessive marijuana use is considered a dependence rather than addiction in most circles, consequences are seen in one’s daily ability to manage life.
The user will feel withdrawal symptoms within the first week of abstinence; their mood will be altered, sleep patterns disrupted, and appetite changed. These symptoms are similar to withdrawal symptoms from other drugs. So is heavy marijuana use a matter of dependence or addiction? In most professionals’ experience, a drug is a drug is a drug.
NIDA (2016). Marijuana. Retrieved January 27, 2017.