Is marijuana addictive? Yes.
Is marijuana addictive? No.
Both answers may be correct, depending on how you define addiction, and the question itself is probably irrelevant.
I chided Maia Szalavitz yesterday for her “both sides have been wrong” nonsense, but she redeems herself somewhat in a pretty strong piece in Time: Is Marijuana Addictive? It Depends How You Define Addiction
After exploring the differing definitions of addiction, she gets to the heart of the matter â€” the important thing is harm.
According to Stanton Peele, author of the classic book Love and Addiction, the real question is not the substance’s addictive quality, but its potential for harm. “I wrote an article on this titled ‘Marijuana is addictive â€” so what?'” he says. “How harmful is this addiction compared to other addictions? It can be disruptive to people’s lives; I have a treatment center, and some people end up there because of marijuana. On the other hand, in terms of physical assaults to your body, it’s better than smoking and better than alcohol.” […]
As Dr. Elders also said on CNN, marijuana is nontoxic. You can fatally overdose on alcohol, heroin or cocaine, but the only way a dose of marijuana will kill you is if someone crushes you under a bale of it.
In fact it may be the social consequences of using marijuana that are more harmful than the physical ones. Peele notes that being convicted for marijuana possession can make a college student ineligible for federal student aid. “No psychologist in the universe could possibly say that smoking marijuana is worse for you than being deprived of the opportunity to get an education,” says Peele.
Hart agrees. “I’ve studied the effects of marijuana withdrawal and effects on cognition. I was ambivalent about it for a long time,” he says. “I now have a 15-year-old son. I am far more concerned about him interacting with law enforcement than I am with marijuana, based on the research.”
This, of course, won’t sit well with many of the treatment professionals, who depend, for their bread and butter, on a broad definition of addiction and the automatic assumption that addiction=harm, without looking at relative harm.