Addressing Cannabis Use
Why is this important?
Did you know that approximately 44% of people will have tried marijuana by the time they are 18 years old and that now more youth are using marijuana than cigarettes?1
Addressing Cannabis Use

A lot of conflicting and confusing information exists today about cannabis or marijuana2 which is also known by many other names.3 The public health and legal environments are rapidly changing and it is hard to keep up with the most current research, laws, and recommendations.

For an in-depth discussion about many aspects of marijuana use, please click here and/or listen to Dr. Wilson Compton.
Our goal is to give you science-based information and tips you can use to have important conversations with your college student.
What should I know?
As a parent, what should I do?
The guidance that might be most useful for you differs by the level of involvement with cannabis.
How would you describe your grown child's cannabis use?
Click on one of the buttons below for discussion points and examples of what to say.
Want to know more?
  • Adolescent Brain Development and Drugs (Research Article )
  • Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CASAR) (Research Center )
  • Counseling Parents and Teens About Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana (Clinical Report )
  • FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) (Regulation )
  • Partnership to End Addiction (Organization )
  • U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain (Advisory )
Cannabis Use Disorder

Criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder

Diagnostic criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), as well as Cannabis Withdrawal, are defined by the American Psychiatric Association.18
CUD Severity

Diagnostic Criteria: Cannabis Use Disorder

  1. A problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
    1. Often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
    2. A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use.
    3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from its effects.
    4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use.
    5. Recurrent use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
    6. Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects.
    7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use.
    8. Recurrent use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
    9. Continued use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by use.
    10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
      1. A need for markedly increased amounts of cannabis to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
      2. Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of cannabis.
    11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
      1. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for cannabis (refer below to Criteria A and B of the criteria set for cannabis withdrawal.)
      2. Cannabis (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Diagnostic Criteria: Cannabis Withdrawal

  1. Cessation of use that has been heavy and prolonged (i.e., usually daily or almost daily use over a period of at least a few months).
  2. Three (or more) of the following signs and symptoms develop within approximately 1 week after Criterion A (cessation of heavy and prolonged use):
    1. Irritability, anger, or aggression.
    2. Nervousness or anxiety.
    3. Sleep difficulty (e.g., insomnia, disturbing dreams).
    4. Decreased appetite or weight loss.
    5. Restlessness.
    6. Depressed mood.
    7. At least one of the following physical symptoms causing significant discomfort: abdominal pain, shakiness/tremors, sweating, fever, chills, or headache.
  3. Signs or symptoms of Criterion B cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. Signs or symptoms are not attributable to another medical condition and are not better explained by another mental disorder, including intoxication or withdrawal from another substance.
Trends in Cannabis Use Disorder

For more information on cannabis use disorder trends, please refer to the following research articles.

Marijuana Use, Recent Marijuana Initiation, and Progression to Marijuana Use Disorder Among Young Male and Female Adolescents Aged 12-14 Living in US Households (Article )
🔑 Key finding: Approximately 17% of past year marijuana users ages 12-14 developed marijuana use disorder (MUD) within a year of their first use.
Higher Average Potency Across the United States is Associated with Progression to First Cannabis Use Disorder Symptom (Article )
🔑 Key finding: There is evidence that use of higher potency cannabis places users at increased risk of developing cannabis use disorder (CUD).
DSM-5 Cannabis Use Disorder in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III: Gender-Specific Profiles (Article )
🔑 Key finding: Women might have faster progression to cannabis use disorder(CUD) after use compared with men.
Notes and References
  1. Schulenberg JE, Johnston LD, O'Malley PM, Bachman JG, Miech RA, Patrick ME. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2019: Volume II, college students and adults ages 19-60. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; 2020. Available online.

  2. We recognize that "cannabis" is the scientific name for the plant and that many people still use the term "marijuana" in surveys to understand patterns of use, scientific publications and resources including those that are provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. On this page we have chosen to use the term cannabis, but when study findings are reported, we will use the term used in that particular study. No matter what term(s) are used, it is important for parents to be informed and to have conversations with their grown children. We welcome your thoughts and feedback about this page and how to improve it.

  3. Examples of other names include weed, pot, hash, blunt, grass, joint, reefer, and skunk.

  4. Chandra S, Radwan MM, Majumdar CG, Church JC, Freeman TP, ElSohly MA. New trends in cannabis potency in USA and Europe during the last decade (2008-2017). Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2019;269(1):5-15. Available online.

  5. ElSohly MA, Mehmedic Z, Foster S, Gon C, Chandra S, Church JC. Changes in cannabis potency over the last 2 decades (1995-2014): analysis of current data in the United States. Biological Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):613-619. Available online.

  6. See FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD).

  7. Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, Goldstein RB, Chou SP, Zhang H, Jung J, Pickering RP, Ruan WJ, Smith SM, Huang B, Grant BF. Prevalence of marijuana use disorders in the United States between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242. Available online.

  8. Ramesh D, Schlosburg JE, Wiebelhaus JM, Lichtman AH. Marijuana dependence: not just smoke and mirrors. ILAR J. 2011;52(3):295-308. Available online.

  9. Volkow ND, Wise RA, Baler R. The dopamine motive system: implications for drug and food addiction. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2017;18(12):741-752. Available online.

  10. Bonnet U, Preuss UW. The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: current insights. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2017;8:9-37. Available online.

  11. DuPont RL. Chemical slavery: Understanding addiction and stopping the drug epidemic. Rockville, MD: Institute for Behavior and Health; 2018.

  12. Arria AM, Barrall AL, Allen HK, Bugbee BA, Vincent KB. The academic opportunity costs of substance use and untreated mental health concerns among college students. In: Cimini MD, Rivero EM, eds. Promoting Behavioral Health and Reducing Risk Among College Students: A Comprehensive Approach. New York: Routledge; 2018:3-22.

  13. Arria AM, Caldeira KM, Bugbee BA, Vincent KB, O'Grady KE. The academic consequences of marijuana use during college. Psychol Addict Behav. 2015;29(3):564-575. Available online.

  14. Suerken CK, Reboussin BA, Egan KL, Sutfin EL, Wagoner KG, Spangler J, Wolfson M. Marijuana use trajectories and academic outcomes among college students. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016;162:137-145. Available online.

  15. Hall W, Degenhardt L. Cannabis use and the risk of developing a psychotic disorder. World Psychiatry. 2008;7(2):68-71. Available online.

  16. Bonn-Miller MO, Moos RH. Marijuana discontinuation, anxiety symptoms, and relapse to marijuana. Addict Behav. 2009;34(9):782-785. Available online.

  17. Adapted from Ryan SA, Ammerman SD, Gonzalez PK, Patrick SW, Quigley J, Walker LR, AAP Committee on Substance Use, Prevention. Counseling parents and teens about marijuana use in the era of legalization of marijuana. Pediatrics. 2017;139(3):e20164069. Available online.

  18. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.