U.S. Adults' Marijuana Use Up Sharply, Surveys Show

"Based on the results of our surveys, marijuana use in the United States has risen rapidly over the past decade, with about three in 10 people who use marijuana meeting the criteria for addiction. Given these increases, it is important that the scientific community convey information to the public about the potential harms," said George Koob, Ph.D., director of NIAAA.

National surveys by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that the percentage of adult Americans who reported using marijuana in the past year more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, NIH announced Oct. 21. Past-year marijuana use rose from 4.1 percent to 9.5 percent of the U.S. adult population and the prevalence of marijuana use disorder rose from 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent, according to the surveys. NIAAA is one of the National Institutes of Health.

"Based on the results of our surveys, marijuana use in the United States has risen rapidly over the past decade, with about three in 10 people who use marijuana meeting the criteria for addiction. Given these increases, it is important that the scientific community convey information to the public about the potential harms," said George Koob, Ph.D., director of NIAAA.

Data about marijuana use were collected through NIAAA's National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, with 79,000 people interviewed on alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions during the 2001-2002 and 2012-2013 surveys.

The new analysis appears in the Oct. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry and was led by Bridget Grant, Ph.D. (doctorates in psychology and epidemiology) of the NIAAA Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry.

"The marked increase in marijuana use and marijuana use disorder shown in the study is a significant change from prior results. Earlier NIAAA research found that marijuana use remained stable at about 4 percent of the U.S. population between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, while abuse and dependence rose from 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent," according to NIAAA's news release. Based on the study, about 30 percent of people who used marijuana in the past year met criteria for marijuana use disorder during 2012-2013, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This includes symptoms such as taking the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended by the user; the persistent desire to cut down or control use/unsuccessful efforts to do so; failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home as a result of marijuana use; and tolerance and/or withdrawal.

"These findings highlight the changing cultural norms related to marijuana use, which could bring additional public health challenges related to addiction, drugged driving and access to effective treatment," said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which contributed funding to the study. "NIDA will continue to work with our partners at NIAAA and across the federal government to educate the public and policymakers on these and other issues related to the use of psychoactive drugs."

According to NIAAA, 23 states have medical marijuana laws, while four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

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