Cannabis Use Disorder and Cannabis Dependence Disorder


Cannabis use disorder is also termed cannabis addiction. It means the addicted person will continue to use cannabis although he is having problems or side effects.

Cannabis dependence disorder is marked by distress due to a cluster of problems where they cannot control the urge to use cannabis even though they are aware of its negative effects on their body and mind.


Cannabis (also known as marijuana) is a drug that is derived from the plant cannabis. It is used for medical and recreational purposes.  Prolonged use of cannabis has been shown to result in alterations of brain functioning.

Nine percent of individuals that use cannabis for long periods of time will develop a dependency on the drug. 


Types of Cannabis Use Disorder

There are three types of cannabis use disorder:

  • Mild (2 or 3 criteria)
  • Moderate (4 or 5 criteria)
  • Severe (6 or more criteria)

The list of the criteria used is:

Unsafe use, social problems, avoidance of major responsibilities, withdrawal of the drug, tolerance level to drug use, usage of large amounts of the drug, usage for long periods of time, effort to quit using, reserving more time for use, physical or mental health problems due to using the drug or dependence, giving up activities, and cravings.

Risk Factors of Cannabis Disorder

There are many risk factors of cannabis use disorder:

  • Using cannabis at a young age and often
  • Unresolved emotional stress
  • School bullying
  • Lacking support from parents
  • Unhealthy friendships
  • Easy access to cannabis
  • Other substance abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Peer pressure and/or influence
  • Troublesome/stressful household
  • Pregnancy-related depression

Causes of Cannabis Use Disorder

There are many causes of  this Disorder:

  • The leading cause of this disorder is using marijuana for longer periods of time.
  • Using larger amounts of cannabis over time. 
  • History of cannabis abuse among family members or friends.
  • Lack of support during times of stress.
  • Genetic factors can be responsible since there is some research that shows the risk of substance abuse increases with genetics.  

Cannabis Use Disorder Symptoms – Cannabis Dependence Disorder Symptoms

Using cannabis can result in psychological problems or disorders. Some of these are: 

  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Dysphoria
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Loss of appetite and eating disorders

Complications of marijuana/cannabis addiction

As the body becomes addicted to marijuana, withdrawal from the drug results in unwanted symptoms such as:

  • Irritability 
  • Depressed state most of the time
  • Anxiety 
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Stomach problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic bronchitis

Conditions related to cannabis addiction/marijuana addiction:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor judgment and decision making skills
  • Criminal behavior
  • Driving issues
  • Damage to short-term memory
  • Learning difficulties
  • Delusions / illusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • Respiratory issues
  • Lung cancer
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Tooth decay
  • Gums disease
  • Poor performance at school


An accurate self-diagnosis is not possible. A diagnosis must be determined by a mental health or health care professional. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the criteria is:

  • Persistent or recent use of cannabis (marijuana)
  • Changes in  behavior which are clinically significant, and are developed after using the drug
  • Development of following two or more signs within two hours of cannabis use. Irritation of conjunctiva of the eye, increased appetite,  dryness of the mouth, increased heart rate (tachycardia)


Parents should monitor their children’s activities. They should supervise and maintain proper communication so that children share their struggles and problems freely with them rather than using marijuana to escape their problems or to cope with anxiety. Children should be made aware of the harmful effects of cannabis use. Efforts are needed to prevent the criminal sale of this drug.

Self Help:

People who want to stop using cannabis can join a group in which other members provide motivation to stop, support, and care about each other. If a person is heavily dependent on cannabis, self-help is not a good option and the person would be better suited by participating in a substance abuse cannabis use disorder treatment program. 

When to See A Doctor:

A person addicted to cannabis should consult with a health care professional for help in the treatment of cannabis use disorder and managing the disorder while it is in the early stages to prevent negative consequences of using the drug.  If a person is aware of increasing using the drug and has no self-control over the desire to use it, they should consult with a professional. When the body starts showing changes related to cannabis, these are the signs that the body is getting used to the drug and will become dependent on it if action is not taken. A professional should also be seen if the person is successful in stopping the drug use but is experiencing unpleasant withdrawal Cannabis Disorder symptoms. 

Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment – Cannabis Dependence Disorder Treatment

Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment and Cannabis Dependence Treatment mostly rely on therapy. There are no medications that have been proven beneficial to stop cravings. 


Therapeutic Approaches:

  • Contingency Management:

This is when a person is monitored for their behavior and is rewarded for positive behavior. If drug use occurs the reward is taken back. 

  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy:

This therapy is targeted at the mindset of the person which brings about greater inspiration and greater contribution in the Cannabis Use Disorder treatment. It is intended to produce rapid results.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the affected individual learns different methods to cope with the negative feelings and how to replace them with positive ones rather than using marijuana as an escape or way to cope with their problems. 

  • Medications: 

There are no medications available for treating cannabis use disorder. Medication can only be used to help minimize withdrawal symptoms.