Like many sensitive topics nowadays, there are two extreme points of view when it comes to the cannabis use debate. One extreme is informed primarily by Reefer Madness and other ignorant propaganda. The other extreme assumes that cannabis addiction doesn’t exist and that it is completely harmless.

At Cream of the Crop, we take a nuanced view informed by the latest and best research available: 

Cannabis is generally safe, appropriate for recreational use, and is effective for certain medicinal uses. However, every cannabis user should do so responsibly and with knowledge of potential side effects. To this end, we are striving to make a positive impact with cannabis on 1 million people — whether through medicinal uses such as pain management or through personal uses to foster creativity or build more community.

Is Cannabis Addictive? Understanding Cannabis Use Disorder

As cannabis research continues to proliferate, cannabis use disorder (CUD) has been included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Although some cannabis advocates might be quick to scoff at labeling cannabis use as a psychological disorder, we believe that the criteria listed to help clinicians diagnose CUD are helpful guidelines for responsible recreational cannabis use.

Below we examine a few that we think are particularly useful to consider. However, here are a couple of caveats to keep in mind: First, the criteria (think of them as warning signs) for CUD are not unique. These negative effects of weed can be applied to virtually anything that is the least bit addictive — sugar, caffeine, or even addictive technology such as time spent on Facebook or playing video games.

The point is that cannabis is like a lot of other things that are universally accepted in our culture — it ought to be considered as something most people can use without any major problems, but can be harmful and even addictive if used irresponsibly.

Second, if you are using cannabis medicinally, these guidelines may not be very helpful. Each medicinal user’s situation is unique and deserves compassion and empathy. Therefore, our exploration of guidelines for responsible use will generally pertain only to those using cannabis recreationally. If you want to keep an eye on your medicinal use, you might want to check in with a knowledgeable doctor, budtender, friend, or family member.

So, how do you know that your cannabis use is healthy and responsible? What does it mean to have a cannabis addiction? Here are some helpful warning signs of CUD, along with some ideas to help your cannabis use stay on track . . . 

Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction: Helpful Warning Signs to Keep Recreational Use Responsible

1. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control cannabis use.

First off, you should ask yourself WHY you want to cut down on your use. If the reason comes from you (e.g., you’d like to take a break, save money, or be more intentional and choosy with your use) that’s a good sign. If the reason to cut back comes from someone who is being needlessly judgmental, you’ll want to carefully think this through and make a decision that you are comfortable and satisfied with. 

2. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain cannabis, use cannabis, or recover from its effects.

This is helpful to consider to ensure that cannabis has not taken a higher priority in your life than you would like — decide how much of your day, week, or month you want to be spent on cannabis, and be mindful of how well you are adhering to this decision.

3. Recurrent cannabis use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.

This one is obvious but needs to be mentioned. Many people are able to function very well under the influence of cannabis. You will know you are one of these people if your work performance, school grades, and relationships are unaffected by your cannabis use. If these things actually improve because you are using cannabis, you are very lucky indeed!

4. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of cannabis use.

Healthy cannabis use ought to enhance these kinds of activities, or even lead you to be involved in new ones.

5. Cannabis use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by cannabis.

If you are coughing uncontrollably after you use cannabis, switch to a non-smoking option or take a break! If you routinely feel anxiety and paranoia, adjust your dose.

6. Cannabis is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The DSM-V also includes an important list of cannabis withdrawal symptoms, including: Irritability, anxiety, insomnia, decreased appetite, and depression. Ideal recreational cannabis use elevates you above a neutral, sober state, rather than lifting you to a neutral place out of a daily funk.

7. Recurrent cannabis use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.

If other people are trusting you to be safe while operating machinery or using dangerous materials, the responsible choice is to be sober or to decline the responsibility all together. For example, the evidence is mixed regarding whether cannabis affects driving ability, but driving sober or not driving at all is probably the best choice.

We hope you’ll join Cream of the Crop somewhere in the middle of the two extreme beliefs about cannabis use — cannabis is not the highly dangerous, life-destroying substance it’s been made out to be, but it’s not without its risks, either. By using the warning signs of CUD as guidelines for responsible use, you can be a “middle of the road” example and ambassador to naysayers and fellow users alike.