Addiction is unlikely with Cannabis used as a medicine.

Given Cannabis sativa’s safe history of use compared with the likes of opioids (and many other pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs), the risks of adverse outcomes related to addiction are unlikely. The 1972 report of the Nixon Marijuana Commission (US) debunked the idea that cannabis is addictive.

Further, the US Federal Government’s Independent New Drug (IND) program, instituted in 1978,  showed there are no troubling chronic effects from regular long-term use. IND patients supplied with government-grown cannabis for over 25 years had no adverse health effects from decades-long respiratory consumption (smoking) of 3.4-4+ kg (7.5-9 lbs) per year. Epidemiology studies demonstrate there are no proven long­-term adverse effects of use. 

To state that cannabis is addictive is a misunderstanding of the definition of addiction alongside a lack of knowledge of the action of cannabinoids on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Of course cannabis can be habit-forming, and there is a dependency risk, one shared with other medications and/or recreational substances. As substance abuse experts pointed out decades ago, however, the dependency risk of cannabis is less than coffee (US estimate, 7-9% of users). 

Cannabis not addictive

Some known side effects of cannabis include; mood-altering, relaxation, laughter, appetite, heightened sensitivity to colour and music, lethargy, distorted temporal and spatial awareness, insomnia, and heart palpitations, for some. Reaction time may be slower, especially during the first few hours after use. If you take a large amount or dose, you can get ‘high’. This is a feeling of euphoria which slowly subsides into feeling satisfied, peaceful and calm. The effects slowly dissipate and then disappear, usually after a few hours.

Addiction was historically a term used to describe a devotion, attachment, dedication and inclination.

The term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to that individual’s health, mental state or social life. In the past, addiction was a term that clearly referred to the use of a tolerance-inducing drug in sufficient quantity as to cause tolerance. At the same time, a non-medical definition of addiction developed. This definition referred to individuals who continued to use a particular substance, usually a deemed illicit drug, despite their own best interest.


Physical dependence on a substance is defined by the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when use of the substance is stopped. Opiates (such as heroin), benzodiazepines, barbiturates, alcohol and nicotine induce physical dependence. However, addiction can be derived from any rewarding behaviour, and is believed to be strongly associated with particular areas of the brain’s reward system.

Dependence does not have to be limited only to substances either, particular activities and behavioural patterns may be considered addictions, if they become uncontrollable, for example gambling, computer addiction, sexual/pornography addiction, shopping/spending addiction, eating, self-harm, or work addiction.

Psychological dependence is of the mind, and leads to psychological withdrawal symptoms (such as cravings, irritability, insomnia etc). 

The Endocannabinoid System

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