Am I a marijuana addict?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on March 2nd, 2008 - Last updated: November 21st, 2023
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Dear Stanton:

I am a 20 year-old college student who is going on to his fifth semester. Last fall, I was introduced to marijuana by a someone close to me. Since then, I have smoked pot regularly.

Recently, I have been having doubts about my smoking habits. Though I probably don’t smoke as much as some of my peers do, I do have a few hits every night. I only smoke late at night so I don’t neglect any of my daytime responsibilities. I don’t drive while high, nor have I attended classes while high. I don’t smoke to escape or distort reality, nor do I smoke to deal with my problems. I also don’t drink alcohol nor smoke cigarettes. I don’t use any other type of drugs, nor have I had any real interest in doing so. I’ve never gone to a weed-party, hung out with people simply to smoke pot, and I don’t live a sub-cultured lifestyle with bongs, psychedelic music, rainbow-colored furniture, or posters glorifying marijuana.

During the summer, when I was home, I did not smoke any marijuana, nor suffer from any symptoms of withdrawal.

I haven’t run into any sort of physical, mental or legal problems due to my smoking pot. Actually, to tell you the truth, many of my friends think that it’s made me less uptight.

My question is this:

Based on what I’ve told you about myself and my pot habits, do I appear to show signs of having an addiction? Should I be worried about the amount of pot I smoke?



The question isn’t whether you’re addicted — that’s a technical issue, open to debate. The question is, is your behavior productive, are you happy with yourself, are you leading to better outcomes for yourself in the near and the long-term future?

You do not meet drug dependence criteria; although your use is regular, you limit your use and have not listed any negative health, legal, family, school, or other consequences. You say you don’t use the drug to cope with problems. You were able to quit for a month without difficulty. All of this is good and indicates that you do not qualify for a diagnosis for substance abuse, let alone dependence, in DSM-IV-TR. On the other hand, you seem to need the drug to deal with your mood, perhaps to sleep, nightly.

People also say it has improved your personality/outlook in some ways. (Of course, these are other college students, who may not be an accurate reflection of general opinion.) Someone could also argue that smoking to relax before sleeping is no worse than using other, prescribed drugs for that purpose.

But the real question is why you are questioning your use. You know your values and needs better than I do. What about your behavior troubles you? Do you not want to be a regular marijuana smoker now, or by the time you leave college? Your friends’ opinions are that marijuana has actually improved your outlook. The question here is whether these friends are the ones you admire and want to be most like in life. You need to examine yourself for answers to these questions.

So, while it does not seem that you are addicted, only you can answer your larger questions about your use of pot.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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