What about Marijuana Dependence?

A Hempfest® Gut Check

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many. So, what’s the big deal about dependence? For most people who get high, it’s something they do occasionally. It doesn’t take over their lives. It doesn’t take priority over meeting responsibilities at home, school, work, or with friends.

For a minority of users, however, their pot use looks a lot like an addiction.

Here are some of the signs:

  • They intend to limit how often they get high, but they break their own rules.
  • They want to cut back or maybe even quit, but they don’t follow through.
  • Being high takes up much more of their time than they want it to.
  • Things that are important to them (friendships, family, school work, sports, music, etc.) are sacrificed so that they can get high instead.
  • They worry about some problems that pot might be causing in their lives, but they continue getting high anyway.


It’s a dilemma. For many years, there’s been a whole lot of propaganda about pot.

One of the lies has been that marijuana can’t be used safely.

It’s time for the truth. Most people who use pot occasionally do not become dependent.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become dependent on pot.

Here’s the bottom line:

  • NORML, the national advocacy organization for legalizing pot, says: “Resist Abuse. Use of cannabis, to the extent it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis users.”
  • Want to minimize the risk of dependence? Keep your use to weekly or less often.
  • If you or someone you know wants help, take a look at these resources:  
    Marijuana Anonymous and “Reduce Your Use” — an online counseling program



Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

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