Is cannabis use disorder a real thing?

The answer? Yes, cannabis use disorder is very real and can be very dangerous. Cannabis use disorder is where a patient feels like they cannot survive without using cannabis or any other related compound from the plant. 

It is a diagnosis given when there is problematic marijuana use and was introduced by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Before this new classification, the diagnosis was split into cannabis dependence and cannabis abuse. Now it is known as a cannabis use disorder.

The disorder captures how certain people can become negatively impacted by cannabis use. But they do not necessarily have to be addicted to the drug. However, the diagnosis will recognise addiction if it were to happen.

Why is diagnosis needed?

Research shows us that college students and young adults use cannabis to socialise when experimenting and for enjoyment. Whilst some use it to relieve anxiety and stress of exams and deadlines. Not only do students use cannabis, but medical patients also consume cannabis to relieve pain and help with medical disorders. 

If cannabis use disorder was not known and treatable, users would struggle to get help, which could lead to more dangerous, long-term issues. The disorder is uncommon as most learn how to handle the amount of cannabis they consume. However, as with alcohol, gambling or smoking, cannabis can be highly addictive to some.

Signs and Symptoms

Cannabis use disorder can show itself in different forms. It has symptoms that can affect behaviour, physical, psychosocial and cognitive aspects of a user’s life. As with all drug addictions, cannabis can cause a person to feel and act differently than they would without being dependent. 

It can cause paranoia, challenges when problem-solving, bloodshot eyes and difficulty to perform certain physical activities. Cannabis is also linked to mental health problems such as anxiety and mood disorders. Discontinuing the use of cannabis can cause these problems to arise and even lead to extreme personality disorders. 


The treatment of any disorder is imperative for a safe and permanent recovery. In order to improve an individual’s overall health and function, supportive treatment can be provided during detoxification. This is the process of removing and detoxing the body and its organs from a toxic substance. 

Psychological counselling is one of the best ways to help with the addiction to substances. It can change and help with behaviour and help to create and develop better coping strategies and mechanisms for stress. As cannabis becomes more accessible and potent, the risk of use disorders may increase. With this, a strategy needs to be put in place to help and protect those who struggle to cope without it. 

A slow reduction in the amount of cannabis consumed is likely to work best and alleviate any discomfort. This will help to prevent relapse and aid better recovery. Cannabis use disorder does not normally require any medical management and will self-cure. However, calm and supportive environments are essential for quick and safe recovery.


Cannabis use disorder needs to be understood and recognised in order for psychologists to know how best to treat patients. It is a very real issue that without help will affect many. Make sure to follow The Leaf Desk for all of the latest information and news regarding cannabis addicted.