One of the reasons you may have started vaping marijuana instead of smoking is for your health. You may also be under the impression that it’s less addictive to smoke or even vape marijuana than it is to smoke cigarettes. So is that true?
While the nicotine in cigarettes (even some e-cigarettes) makes them very addictive, it doesn’t appear vaping cannabis is nearly as addictive. The jury is still out there, though. Some people who use marijuana can develop marijuana use disorder, which creates a dependence, but this doesn’t exclusively occur to those who vape. Marijuana use disorder doesn’t always necessarily mean a person will develop a marijuana addiction, either.
If you’re looking for more information about whether vaping cannabis can lead to addiction, you’ll want to read on.
In this article, we’ll get to the bottom about the addictive qualities of marijuana. We’ll then talk about whether vaping it can lead to an addiction.
Let’s get started below.
Is Marijuana Itself Addictive?
Before we can get into whether vaping Cannabis may cause addiction, we have to start by talking about the weed itself. How addictive, if at all, is Marijuana? After all, some people call marijuana a gateway drug. Supposedly, using it opens the doors for users to try other, more serious drugs.
Is there even a kernel of truth to that?
Nope, not at all. While sometimes using marijuana might get a person curious about using other drugs, that’s about it. Smoking marijuana does not guarantee you will try cocaine, heroin, or other drugs.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk a bit about marijuana and its addictive qualities.
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Can you get addicted to marijuana?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIH says yes, marijuana can be addictive. Some people who use marijuana end up with marijuana use disorder, which we touched on in the intro. This disorder causes a feeling of dependence on the drug, including withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms may include physical discomfort, restlessness, cravings, lack of appetite, sleeping issues, and mood changes.
The withdrawal symptoms typically last a week or two and then subside. If you don’t smoke or use marijuana again at that point, then that’s it for the withdrawal. Continuing to use marijuana will lead to a recurrence of withdrawal symptoms.
Who gets marijuana use disorder? Good question. The NIH says those who begin smoking marijuana regularly when they’re 18 years old or under have a 4x to 7x chance of having marijuana use disorder.
Regardless of age, those with marijuana use disorder could comprise 30 percent of all marijuana users.
Now, that’s not a lot, and the NIH even says these people “may have” a marijuana use disorder, not that they definitely do. Also, having marijuana use disorder doesn’t automatically mean you’re addicted to marijuana.
Those who wanted to curb their marijuana use or even stop it altogether would have an uphill battle with the withdrawal symptoms, that’s true.
However, these people aren’t forced to keep smoking marijuana indefinitely, either. They could face the withdrawal symptoms, suffer for a week or so, and then move on with their lives.
Also, the NIH itself says there’s different levels of marijuana use disorder. For some, the disorder can distract from key facets of life. For others, not so much.
Does that mean people can’t get hooked on marijuana? Well, no. Some can and do. The keyword there is “some.”
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Is Vaping Cannabis Addictive without Nicotine?
Originally, vaping appealed to cigarette smokers looking to quit. They could smoke an e-cigarette and get the feel of smoking while weaning themselves off the real thing. Today, people vape for all sorts of reasons, and, as you know, with a variety of substances.
When you remove the nicotine from the equation, is vaping still addictive? The jury’s still out on that one too. This Healthline article says vaping without nicotine can lead to some side effects but doesn’t touch on the addictiveness of vaping marijuana (if it exists at all).
We should talk about those side effects, too. There’s a possibility that the vapor in e-cigarettes can kill cells in-vitro. Another study done in-vitro says the vaporizers could lead to inflammation in the immune system.
Healthline itself says “in-vitro results should be interpreted with caution, as they don’t replicate real-life vaping conditions.” Take the results at face value, then.
Now that we’ve got the vaping part out of the way, what about nicotine?
Nicotine itself is a parasympathomimetic alkaloid. When you smoke a cigarette (a real cigarette), you will absorb two milligrams of nicotine into your system. That’s per cigarette. Even animals experience anxiety and behavioral changes when exposed to nicotine.
The NIH says of those who will attempt to stop smoking cigarettes in a given year, only six percent will succeed. Why? Due to their nicotine addiction.
If you try to withdrawal from cigarettes, you can experience sleep issues, concentration problems, mood changes, anxiety, heightened stress, and depression. As you can recall from earlier in this article, these symptoms are much more serious than the symptoms you experience during withdrawal from marijuana.
It’s no wonder then that so many people try to quit cigarettes and fail. Nicotine has such a stronghold on them. When you take nicotine out of the equation, then, it’s reasonable to assume vaping becomes less addictive. It might not lead to addiction at all. It’s hard to say without quantifiable research.
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Is Vaping Weed Less Addictive Than Smoking It?
Thus far, we’ve concluded that some people can get addicted to cannabis. These people typically have a marijuana use disorder. We also covered nicotine, an extraordinarily addictive substance found in cigarettes and some e-cigarettes. Finally, we concluded that once you remove the nicotine, vaping probably isn’t inherently addictive. Currently, no research states the contrary.
Knowing all we do now, it’s time to talk about whether it’s more addictive to vape weed than smoke it.
You’re probably already aware that vaping is safer than smoking. You cut down on your risk of getting associated cardiovascular disease and lung disease by vaping, notes RiverMend Health.
Many experts agree that vaping marijuana, especially with a vape pen, doesn’t have a very high risk. We live in an age where marijuana has become socially acceptable. People admit to smoking it, and, in many states, it’s legal to do so. As a result, vape shops have popped up in droves across the country.
It’s that risk that has led to more people vaping, especially those between 18 and 35 years old. Lakeview Health notes that, as of 2014, most of those in the 18-to-24 age group (86.5 percent) said vaping marijuana monthly posed “no great risk.”
RiverMend Health had some other interesting findings to report. They found that those who used a vape pen often upped their usage of marijuana. Also, these people had a higher chance of consuming more alcohol. RiverMend says “the number of drinks per drinking day (episode) increased the likelihood of vaping cannabis by a factor of 12—per drink.”
What the statement above seems to say is that these people drank alcohol and then used a vape pen and probably not the other way around.
While it’s good to know the above information, none of it touches on the addictiveness of vaping. Overall, very little data exists, and no one expert or group of researchers seems to make the correlation that vaping marijuana is any more addictive than smoking it.
Of course, if you’re prone to a marijuana addiction due to marijuana use disorder, then we’d say it doesn’t matter if you smoke or vape. You’re probably going to get addicted anyway.
That said, since you can enjoy a stronger high vaping instead of smoking, says LifeScience, more than likely, there’s potential for vaping to become more addictive than smoking.
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The Final Puff
Cannabis isn’t inherently an addictive substance, although some people do get addicted to it. Those with a marijuana use disorder have a higher likelihood of using marijuana regularly. That’s because their withdrawal symptoms make it difficult to quit.
With different levels of marijuana use disorder, not everyone who has it becomes addicted. That’s unlike nicotine. This very addictive substance found in cigarettes and some e-cigarettes has a much lower rate of quitting success. In a year, only six percent of those who try to quit cigarettes will. That’s partly because nicotine has much more severe withdrawal symptoms.
By vaping cannabis without nicotine, you’re already reducing its addictiveness. While no research says that vaping marijuana is more addictive than smoking it, we’d say this varies on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re someone with a marijuana use disorder who’s prone to addiction, then yes, vaping will probably contribute to that addiction. This becomes especially true when you consider that vaping gives you a more potent high than smoking the herb.
If you’re someone who has smoked marijuana before with no addiction, then vaping probably won’t change that.
Thanks for reading