Cannabis dependence is defined in the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition requiring treatment.[1]

Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the world[1] with a dependence rate between 9% and 10% in adult users.[2] In the US, as of 2013, cannabis is the most commonly identified illicit substance used by people admitted to treatment facilities.[3] Demand for treatment for cannabis use disorder increased internationally between 1995 and 2002.[4]

As it turns out, the psychological drive is much more powerful than the physical experience of withdrawal. Cocaine, which also produces little withdrawal sickness but does create extreme craving, was once seen as nonaddictive — that was before America was introduced to crack in the 1980s. More than a century ago, Mark Twain summed up the essence of the problem, in reference to the addictiveness of tobacco: “Giving up smoking is easy,” he said. “I’ve done it thousands of times.”

What about withdrawal symptoms? “You see mood effects, irritability. Food intake decreases. There are sleep disruptions. It looks like nicotine withdrawal,” says Carl Hart, associate professor of clinical neuroscience at Columbia University, who has studied marijuana withdrawal.



  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2003). Emergency department trends from the drug abuse warning network, final estimates 1995–2002, DAWN Series: D-24, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 03-3780.