Colorado Residents Ask “Is Marijuana Really Addictive?”

When marijuana was made legal for recreational use in Colorado in 2013, one of the arguments used was that marijuana was rarely, if ever, addictive. The vast majority of people, proponents argued, could use marijuana recreationally and not become dependent on or addicted to it.

Some new statistics may cause many Colorado residents to question this argument, both in response to changes in the way marijuana is made and used and in response to new information that may change what experts know about marijuana use.

Potency Has Increased Fourfold, Maybe Even More

There has been a major change in the potency of marijuana samples confiscated by law enforcement in recent years that experts may not have recognized before changing the laws to favor recreational marijuana use. While samples in the 1990s had only a 3.8 percent THC concentration, samples collected since 2014 have had a 12.2 percent concentration on average, which is three to four times more potent.

This tremendous change in potency is even more dramatic when it comes to marijuana edibles, which can have potency well above 12 percent and can be consumed in a more concentrated fashion than when the drug is smoked. Extracted marijuana has a 50 to 80 percent THC concentration level, for instance, although this is somewhat diluted when the substance is used in edibles.

Dependence vs. Addiction

Experts like the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Medical Association have said that dependence on or addiction to marijuana in the U.S. ranges from about 9 percent to 30 percent, depending on the criteria used (the 30 percent figure includes any evidence of dependence, where the 9 percent is a stronger dependence or addiction).

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Marijuana edibles can have much higher concentrations of the drug than traditional cigarettes do.

These numbers are much higher for teens who begin smoking or using the drug before their brains are fully developed, although recreational use in Colorado is only legal for adults 21 and up. The numbers for both adults and teens may continue to rise as the effects of the increased potency of the drug are measured more fully and for a longer period of time.

The main difference between dependency on the drug and addiction is that addicts continue to use the drug even when it has multiple and serious negative effects on their life. However, addiction does include dependency, and there are always connections between the two.

Teens Are More Vulnerable to Marijuana Abuse

NIDA says that teens who use marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to become dependent or addicted, and that about 17 percent of teens who use marijuana are dependent or addicted to the drug, so it is important to realize that teen marijuana use is much riskier than that of adults.

If you or someone you know, especially a teen, seems to have a problem with frequent marijuana use that could show dependence or addiction, Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab that provides treatment for all drug abuse including marijuana. Contact us today to discuss your treatment options!