Accurate Education – Cannabis Use Disorder

Marijuana (Cannabis) Addiction: Cannabis Use Disorder

Despite the prevalence of use of marijuana (cannabis), many people do not realize that cannabis is an addictive drug. While estimates span a range, it is commonly reported that 9% of cannabis users have an addictive relationship with the drug. While the psychosocial impact and consequences of cannabis addiction, better described as Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), are not as detrimental and destructive as heroin addiction and alcoholism, CUD does negatively affect quality of life.




Marijuana – Legislative Update for Louisiana

Marijuana – Medical Use Overview

“Medical Marijuana” – Getting Started

Cannabis-Based Medications:

Over-the-Counter Cannabinoid Medications:

Marijuana – Cannabidiol (CBD)


Prescription Cannabis-Based Medications:

FDA-Approved Prescription Cannabis-Based Medications

Louisiana Prescription Cannabis-Based Products – “Medical Marijuana”

Clinical Applications of Cannabis:

Cannabis – Anxiety (coming soon)

Cannabis – Fibromyalgia

Cannabis – Headaches (coming soon)

Cannabis – Inflammatory Bowel Disease (coming soon)

Cannabis – Neuroinflammation (coming soon)

Cannabis – Pain (coming soon)

Cannabis – Sleep (coming soon)


The Medical Science of Cannabis:

The Endocannabinoid System

Marijuana – Botanical

Marijuana – Pharmacokinetics

Marijuana – Inhaled (Smoked and Vaporized)

Marijuana – Cannabinoids and Opioids

Cannabinoids and Terpenes:

Cannabinoids & Terpenes – An Overview (coming soon)


Marijuana – Cannabidiol (CBD)


Terpenes – An Overview (coming soon)


See also:

Marijuana – Discontinuing Use

Marijuana Addiction – Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD)

Addiction Recovery



Key to Links:

Grey text – handout

Red text – another page on this website

Blue text – Journal publication


Addiction to Marijuana: Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD

It is commonly reported that about 10% of people who use cannabis regularly actually have an addiction to cannabis (Cannabis Use Disorder – CUD), while some reports suggest figures as high as 20-30%. When considering a person’s withdrawal symptoms with cannabis, it is important to understand that the severity of withdrawal symptoms does not define or predict the diagnosis of CUD. Any addiction, cannabis included, has definitive characteristics that set it apart from the use, misuse or abuse of a medication or drug. All too often, people believe that difficulty discontinuing the use of a drug or medication due to withdrawal symptoms is equivalent to an addiction to the drug or medication. It is not. To learn more about addiction and what it is, click here: addiction.


Diagnosisof CUD

Cannabis Use Disorder is a diagnosis defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition or DSM-5. The DSM is used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. In 2013, a new version known as the DSM-5 was released. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and covers all categories of mental health disorders for both adults and children. The DSM is utilized widely in the United States for psychiatric diagnosis, treatment recommendations and insurance coverage purposes.


Symptoms of Cannabis Use Disorder – DSM-V Criteria

At least two of the following symptoms within a 12 month period indicate Cannabis Use Disorder:

  1. Taking more cannabis than was intended
  2. Difficulty controlling or cutting down cannabis use
  3. Spending a lot of time on cannabis use
  4. Craving cannabis
  5. Problems at work, school and home as a result of cannabis use
  6. Continuing to use cannabis despite social or relationship problems
  7. Giving up or reducing other activities in favor of cannabis
  8. Taking cannabis in high risk situations
  9. Continuing to use cannabis depite physical or psychological problems
  10. Tolerance to cannabis
  11. Withdrawal when discontinuing cannabis.


The severity of CUD can be further stratified:

  1. Mild – indicates 2-3 symptoms
  2. Moderate – indicates 4-5 symptoms
  3. Severe – indicates 6 or more symptoms


It should be understood that the severity of a person’s physical addiction is unrelated to the severity of their disorder. With a list of 11 symptoms to evaluate, one can have CUD – Severe, without having any tolerance or withdrawal, typical hallmarks of addiction. By the same token, one can meet the criteria for CUD – Mild, despite experiencing severe physical tolerance and withdrawal.


A Brief Review of the Neurobiology of Cannabis

As a plant, marijuana contains many pharmacologically active “cannabinoids” that interact with theendocannabinoid system throughout the brain, nervous system and most organs and tissues throughout the rest of the body. The endocannabinoid system modulates nerve transmission, both inhibitory and excitatory, in brain regions relevant to the regulation of pain, emotion, motivation, and thought processing. This signaling system is engaged by the primary active component of cannabis, ∆9-THC, which exerts its pharmacological effects by activation of the two known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, although there is increasing research suggesting that additional cannabinoid receptors exist.

High concentrations of CB1 receptors are found in the hippocampus, neocortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. CB2 receptors are found primarily in the peripheral tissues, and are thought to modulate immune and inflammatory responses. During chronic cannabis use, a series of changes occur in the brain and nervous system (neuroplastic changes), which are not well understood. These changes lead to the development of withdrawal symptoms, physical and emotional dependence.

Treatment of CUD

Currently, cannabis-use disorders are treated using a variety of psychosocial interventions, including Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as most effective. Pharmacotherapy for CUD is very limited, with only a few medications identified that offer mild benefit and no medications actually FDA-approved for treating CUD. While a number of medications have been evaluated, only gabapentin (Neurontin) and baclofen have been shown to reduce cravings, mostly during the withdrawal stages, although there is some preliminary research suggesting potential for long term benefit.

See Cannabis – Discontinuing Use


Cannabanoid replacement therapy for treating CUD, analogous to the use methadone or buprenorphine in opioid SUD, is being studied currently and with further research it is likely the future holds an effective cannabanoid for CUD. Dronabinol is an orally bioavailable synthetic form of THC that acts as a cannabinoid-receptor agonist at the CB receptor. It is approved for use in the US for AIDS-related anorexia and nausea as a result of chemotherapy. It has also shown some benefit in doses of 10–50 mg in reducing cannabis-withdrawal symptoms, with minimal side effects.


Cannabis Use Disorder – Overviews

  1. cannabinoids-and-drug-addiction-chapter-12-2015
  2. neurobiological-mechanisms-of-cannabinoid-addiction-2008


Cannabis Use Disorder – Measuring Severity

  1. the-cannabis-withdrawal-scale-development-2011
  2. quantifying-the-clinical-significance-of-cannabis-withdrawal-2012


Cannabis Withdrawal Treatement – Overviews

  1. management-of-cannabis-withdrawal
  2. pharmacological-treatment-of-cannabis-dependence-2011
  3. progress-toward-pharmacotherapies-for-cannabis-use-disorder-an-evidence-based-review-2016
  4. psychosocial-interventions-for-cannabis-use-disorder-2016-pubmed-ncbi


Cannabis Withdrawal Treatment – Baclofen

  1. baclofen-in-the-management-of-cannabis-dependence-syndrome-2014


Cannabis Withdrawal – Gabapentin (Neurontin)

  1. a-proof-of-concept-randomized-controlled-study-of-gabapentin-effects-on-cannabis-use-withdrawal-and-executive-function-deficits-in-cannabis-dependent-adults-2012


Emphasis on Education


Accurate Clinic promotes patient education as the foundation of it’s medical care. In Dr. Ehlenberger’s integrative approach to patient care, including conventional and complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments, he may encourage or provide advice about the use of supplements. However, the specifics of choice of supplement, dosing and duration of treatment should be individualized through discussion with Dr. Ehlenberger. The following information and reference articles are presented to provide the reader with some of the latest research to facilitate evidence-based, informed decisions regarding the use of conventional as well as CAM treatments.


For medical-legal reasons, access to these links is limited to patients enrolled in an Accurate Clinic medical program.


Should you wish more information regarding any of the subjects listed – or not listed –  here, please contact Dr. Ehlenberger. He has literally thousands of published articles to share on hundreds of topics associated with pain management, weight loss, nutrition, addiction recovery and emergency medicine. It would take years for you to read them, as it did him.


For more information, please contact Accurate Clinic.


Supplements recommended by Dr. Ehlenberger may be purchased commercially online or at Accurate Clinic.

Please read about our statement regarding the sale of products recommended by Dr. Ehlenberger.

Accurate Supplement Prices