Marijuana Use Has Doubled In Past 10 Years, But Percentage Suffering Disorders Drops Five Points

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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The percentage of Americans using marijuana has surged over the past decade, according to new numbers released by the National Institutes of Health.

Between years 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, the percentage of adult Americans who reported using cannabis in the past year more than doubled from 4.1 percent to 9.5 percent.

But on the flip side, the proportion of people who are deemed to have marijuana use disorder has actually fallen by 5 percentage points from 35.6 percent to 30.6 percent, the NIH said Wednesday.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines cannabis disorder as using more of the drug and for longer than the user intends, as well as failing to meet major obligations at work, home or school because of marijuana.

“Based on the results of our surveys, marijuana use in the United States has risen rapidly over the past decade, with about 3 in 10 people who use marijuana meeting the criteria for addiction,” said George Koob, Ph.D., National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The NIH figures are based on interviews with almost 8o,000 people who were quizzed about drug and alcohol use and related psychiatric conditions.

The upswing in the number of Americans is a fairly recent phenomenon. Pot use had remained stable at 4 percent between 1991-1992 to 2001-2002. Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said the rapid shift “highlighted changing cultural norms related to marijuana.” (RELATED: 58 Percent Of Americans Now Support Marijuana Legalization)

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and recreational cannabis is legal in four states, as well as the District of Columbia. Given the rapidly changing nature of marijuana laws across the country the authors of the study argue greater public education about the risks associated with marijuana should be “presented in a reasonable and balanced manner.”

Opponents of marijuana legalization often argue the uptick in use in recent years combined with a more libertarian legal regime in some states increases teen drug use.

But those concerns have not yet been realized according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), whose data show that nationally 7.4 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 used pot on a monthly basis in 2014. Although this was a 0.3 percentage point rise from the previous year, SAMHSA said it was not a statistically relevant figure and was still much lower than in 2002.

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