Image by NIDA.
We published this post originally in 2015. This update reflects current research as of March 2020.
In the 2019 Monitoring the Future survey, the number of teens saying they vaped marijuana (weed) in 2019 increased dramatically from 2018. And while the number of teens saying they smoked marijuana didn’t change much in 2019, fewer teens said they believe that using marijuana is generally harmful.
The truth is, whether it’s smoked or vaped, marijuana use can affect the developing teen brain, just like most other drugs, including alcohol and nicotine.
You can also get addicted to marijuana—especially if you use it during your teen years. A recent study found that teens and young adults (age 12 to 20) had much higher rates of marijuana use disorder than adults age 21 and older.
Dependence vs. addiction
A marijuana use disorder can include both dependence and addiction.
- Being "dependent" on a drug means you need the drug to feel physically okay. However, being dependent doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted.
- People who are addicted start to think about the drug all the time, and make it more important than other things in their life. They also constantly worry about how to get more drugs.
Repeated drug use can change the brain in ways that make it harder to quit. So, people addicted to drugs are unable to stop even though it’s causing problems with school, a job, or relationships.
If someone is dependent or addicted, they may experience withdrawal if they stop using the drug all at once. Withdrawal can be very uncomfortable; it’s part of what makes it hard for someone to stop using a drug.
A study found that marijuana withdrawal is a reality for teens. Among teens who received drug use treatment at an outpatient clinic, 40 percent experienced symptoms of withdrawal when they stopped using marijuana.
You may have a mental image of drug withdrawal based on TV and movies: sweating, shaking, and being curled up in bed with unbearable discomfort and depression. These symptoms do occur in people addicted to drugs like opioids, alcohol, or cocaine. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms aren’t as obvious as those for some other drugs, but they’re every bit as real.
The main behavioral symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:
- Being irritable
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Feeling depressed
- Being restless
The physical symptoms can include:
- Stomach pain
- Having trouble sleeping at night and feeling tired during the day
- Having low appetite or losing weight
People who use marijuana regularly may not realize that their symptoms could actually be part of withdrawal. One in six teens who try marijuana will get addicted to it, and that increases to as many as half of all teens who use it every day.
Whether you’re dependent or addicted, if you’re experiencing withdrawal from any drug, you should seek medical advice.
Learn more: Can you get high from using CBD?