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What is Cannabis Use Disorder

First off, this is not an anti-cannabis article.  It is a recognition that just like with many other substances (I'm looking at you, alcohol), cannabis can become a problem in some people's lives. I use cannabis to refer to marijuana and related THC products.  

Cannabis use disorder refers to a condition where the person's use of cannabis is causing health or social problems in their lives and they are unable to stop using the substance in the face of those problems.  Generally, we are talking about chronic or regular users of cannabis.  

The signs that evaluators look for include:

  • Using more cannabis than intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit using marijuana
  • Spending a lot of time using marijuana
  • Craving marijuana
  • Using the substance even when it causes problems at home, school or work
  • Using even though it causes social or relationship problems
  • Giving up important activities with friends or family to use marijuana instead
  • Using marijuana in high-risk situations, such as while driving a car
  • Continuing use despite physical or psychological problems
  • Needing to use more of the substance to get the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping use

Persons with cannabis use disorder are at higher risk for experiencing negative consequences to use including to attention, memory, and learning.

The higher THC concentration strains available and other use methods that increase the THC levels consumed may accelerate those issues. Negative consequences may be more significant for younger users including those in their twenties and below.  

Social problems include those described above but generally include negative interactions about cannabis use with family members, friends, employers, co-workers, etc.  It also certainly includes arrests related to cannabis possession or use, including driving under the influence charges. While not every DUI charge is a legitimate wake-up call, considering that some officers view the odor of cannabis or even decals linked to cannabis ("I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac."-- Don Henley, The Boys of Summer).  Let's be honest, some of them might even consider your choice  of driving music to be probable cause.  But, if you are driving down the road consuming marijuana, that is a problem.  If you are driving within a couple of hours of consumption, it can indicate a problem.  

If you are coming to me with a cannabis-related charge, there is some chance that I will refer you to have a drug and alcohol clinical evaluation. And, if that evaluation diagnoses a cannabis use disorder, then I will recommend that you follow the treatment recommendations, including cessation of marijuana use, at least until your case is over.

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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