As states began to legalize marijuana, it was often asserted that the legalization of the drug would help decrease crime rates and act as a remedy for many different diseases and mental health disorders. While, in places like Colorado, crime has decreased, the figures differ nationwide. A recent study shows that marijuana use has greatly increased in Americans over the past 10 years, and most of the drug use is recreational. The question is, just how bad has the drug use become?
In 2001, it was reported that the percentage of Americans who regularly used marijuana was 4.1 percent. Now, the percentage has grown to 9.5 percent, more than double what it was 10 years prior. The study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism gathered these figures by interviewing 36,000 people over the age of 18, according to CNN, and gathering data from surveys of about 80,000 people. Taking a broader look into the use (and abuse) of marijuana, here is what they found out.
Since 2001, though the number of marijuana users has increased, the number of users with a drug abuse disorder has decreased. Altogether, the study found that just over 6.8 million Americans have a marijuana abuse problem. Even more in depth information within the study reveals the demographics of the 6.8 million cannabis users.
The increase of cannabis use was most common in American women. The researchers also found that African-American and Hispanic people were more likely to use marijuana than other races. Additionally, the most common users were also low income individuals, people who lived in southern states, and people who were middle-aged. However, the study also noticed something new about marijuana use in teens age 18 to 19 and young adults.
Though the research shows that drug abuse disorders have decreased over the past 10 years, for teens and young adults, it has increased. According to the data, young adults who use marijuana are more likely to become dependent or addicted, and thus more likely to abuse the drug. Young adults reportedly make up much of the 3 out of 10 Americans who do have drug abuse disorders. The study authors directly mentions the reality of heightened abuse disorders in the publication.
“As is the case with alcohol, many individuals can use marijuana without becoming addicted. However, the clear risk for marijuana use disorders among users — approximately 30 percent — suggests that as the number of U.S. users grows, so will the numbers of those experiencing problems related to such use.”
With knowledge of the likeliness that certain individuals, specifically young adults, have a tendency to become dependent on marijuana, the study authors also notes the apparent need for action and education on the subject of drug use, even for legal drugs.
“When examined by age, young adults were at highest risk for marijuana use disorder in both surveys. Clearly, concerns about this age group continue, with prevention and intervention efforts for this group critically needed.”
With the government in talks about passing a law to legalize marijuana nationwide, there may be a cause for concern on future addictions and drug abuse disorders, especially in young adults. To prepare for the possibility of marijuana being completely legal in the United States, the study’s lead author Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., has some recommendations on preventing marijuana abuse, marijuana dependency, and full-blown addiction.
“One of the things that will be important to do is conduct studies designed to examine the reasons for the increases we found. These could be laws, but there could also be other factors.”
Despite the study’s data, the main concern with the legalization of marijuana is actually not drug abuse. The realities are that marijuana use has been linked to many health related issues and even life incidents. The study names cognitive decline, psycho-social impairments, psychiatric symptoms, and being a gateway to harder drugs as the most popular health concerns associated with marijuana use. The researchers also realized that marijuana use has resulted in many vehicle accidents, and hospital visits in recent years. The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry, and concludes that as the number of marijuana users in America grows, so will the disorders and poor quality of life associated with drug use.
[Image via Bruce Bennett / Getty Images]