No, cannabis isn’t as addictive as heroin

Maybe you noticed the fuss last week: The Daily Mail ran an article on the front page called The terrible truth about cannabis, suggesting that cannabis is equally addictive as heroin.

The article discussed a research paper written by Wayne Hall, who works as an adviser for the World Health Organisation. The paper doesn’t present new research but is a review of 20 years of cannabis research.

A more balanced description and analysis of the paper can be found here.

When studied closely there indeed appear to be some adverse effects related to cannabis smoking. Still, many of the findings are preliminary or should be studied more in depth to control for confounding variables.

How about the addiction claim? Hall writes that 9% of those who ever use cannabis develop dependency. (So 91% doesn’t.) Though, the risk of addiction is higher in teens: about one in six (17%).

Compared with other drugs: 32% of nicotine users develop dependency, for alcohol this is 15%, 11% for stimulants and 23% for heroin.

Heavy smokers may encounter withdrawal symptoms - like anxiety, insomnia, appetite disturbance and depression - when they want to quit. However: “the adverse health and social consequences of cannabis use reported by cannabis users who seek treatment for dependence appear to be less severe than those reported by alcohol and opioid-dependent people," Hall writes.

So no; cannabis is definitely not as addictive as heroin.