Marijuana Addiction Statistics & Facts

July 2, 2024

Discover eye-opening marijuana addiction statistics & facts. Understand the impact, risks, and global perspective surrounding cannabis use.

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana addiction is a complex issue that can have various impacts on an individual's mental health and overall well-being. In this section, we will explore the impact of marijuana use on mental health, the long-term effects of adolescent marijuana use, and the withdrawal symptoms and treatment options associated with marijuana addiction.

Impact of Marijuana Use on Mental Health

  • Teenagers who use marijuana regularly are more likely to experience a decline in IQ points, with an average decrease of 8 points between ages 13 and 38 [1].
  • The earlier a person starts using marijuana, the more likely they are to develop dependency and addiction later in life.
  • Cannabis use during adolescence has been linked to an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety.
  • A study of over 3,800 young adults found that those who used marijuana frequently had more suicidal thoughts and attempts than those who did not use the drug.
  • Regular marijuana use has been associated with impaired cognitive function, including difficulties with attention, memory, and learning.
  • Long-term marijuana use has been linked to an increased risk of chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.
  • Heavy cannabis use during adolescence has been associated with structural abnormalities in the brain, particularly in areas related to emotion regulation and decision-making.
  • Cannabis use can interfere with normal sleep patterns, leading to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep [8].
  • Marijuana use during pregnancy has been associated with negative outcomes for both the mother and child, including low birth weight and developmental delays.
  • Despite the potential negative effects of marijuana use on mental health, many people with mental health conditions turn to cannabis as a form of self-medication.

Long-Term Effects of Adolescent Marijuana Use

The long-term effects of adolescent marijuana use are believed to be harmful. Rats exposed to THC (the main psychoactive compound in marijuana) during development have shown notable problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life, indicating that marijuana exposure during development can cause long-term adverse changes in the brain. Several studies indicate that marijuana use can cause functional impairment in cognitive abilities, with the degree of impairment depending on the age when a person began using and the amount and duration of use. Persistent marijuana use disorder with frequent use starting in adolescence has been associated with a loss of 6 to 8 IQ points measured in mid-adulthood.

Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatment

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological rather than physical. Chronic users can experience symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, cravings, depression, restlessness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and anxiety within the first 24-72 hours after the last use. Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) related to marijuana withdrawal can last anywhere from 12 to 24 months. These symptoms may include restlessness, irritability, agitation, diminished appetite, poor concentration, increased anxiety, and cravings.

Seeking help through treatment can assist marijuana users in managing withdrawal symptoms and emotional hurdles when quitting. Treatment often involves therapists to coach patients and support groups to provide comfort during the process.

Understanding the impact of marijuana use on mental health, the long-term effects of adolescent marijuana use, and the withdrawal symptoms and treatment options can empower individuals to make informed decisions regarding their marijuana use and seek appropriate help if needed.

Marijuana Addiction Statistics

When exploring the topic of marijuana addiction, it is important to examine the prevalence of marijuana use, demographics and patterns of use, as well as dual use and co-occurring substance use.

Prevalence of Marijuana Use

  • In 2020, approximately 49.6 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using marijuana within the past year, which represents nearly 18% of the population in that age group.
  • Among those who reported using marijuana in the past year, just over 5% (approximately 14.2 million people) met the diagnostic criteria for a cannabis use disorder.
  • It has been estimated that individuals who start using marijuana before the age of 18 may be 4–7 times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.
  • In states where medical marijuana is legal, rates of cannabis use are generally higher than in states where it is not lega.
  • In 2019, approximately 11.8 million young adults aged 18-25 reported using marijuana in the past month, which represents about 43% of young adults in that age group.
  • According to a survey of high school students conducted in 2019, approximately 35% reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
  • Among pregnant women in the United States, approximately 7% reported using marijuana within the past month.
  • Rates of cannabis use are generally higher among men than women.
  • In states where recreational marijuana is legal, rates of cannabis use have increased among all age groups.
  • The potency of marijuana has increased dramatically over the past few decades, with THC levels averaging around 5% in the 1980s and now averaging around 15% in some strains.

Demographics and Patterns of Use

  • A survey study conducted from 2016 to 2019 among 387,157 US adults found that the prevalence of cannabis use in the past month among respondents was 10.1%.
  • Among those who reported using cannabis, 3.8% engaged in infrequent use (1-5 days), 2.8% engaged in frequent use (6-29 days), and 3.5% engaged in daily use.
  • Young adults aged 18-34 were more likely than any other age group to report using cannabis in the past month, with a prevalence rate of 21%.
  • Men were more likely than women to report using cannabis in the past month, with a prevalence rate of 12.7% compared to 7.9%.
  • Black and Native American individuals were more likely than white individuals to report using cannabis in the past month, with prevalence rates of 14.5% and 16.3%, respectively, compared to 9.4% for white individuals.
  • Individuals with low educational attainment (less than a high school diploma) were more likely to report using cannabis in the past month than those with higher levels of education.
  • Individuals with lower incomes (less than $20,000 per year) were more likely to report using cannabis in the past month than those with higher incomes [1].
  • Among daily cannabis users, the majority reported using cannabis for medicinal purposes rather than recreational purposes.
  • Cannabis use has been found to be more prevalent among individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual compared to heterosexual individuals.
  • Among adolescents aged 12-17 who reported using cannabis in the past year, over half reported obtaining it from a friend or family member for free.

Additionally, the study found that daily cannabis use was more prevalent among individuals who used smoked cannabis, while infrequent use was more common among those using edible cannabis.

Dual Use and Co-occurring Substance Use

  • The prevalence of dual use of cannabis and smoked tobacco was 3.4% among US adults in 2018.
  • Among young adults aged 18-25 who reported using cannabis in the past month, approximately 17% reported also smoking cigarettes.
  • The prevalence of dual use of cannabis and e-cigarettes was 1.4% among US adults in 2018.
  • Among high school students who reported using cannabis in the past month, approximately 22% also reported using e-cigarettes.
  • The prevalence of dual use of cannabis and alcohol was 25.2% among US adults in 2019.
  • Among college students who reported using cannabis in the past month, approximately 69% also reported using alcohol.
  • The prevalence of dual use of cannabis and opioids was 0.8% among US adults in 2018.
  • Among individuals with opioid use disorder who were receiving medication-assisted treatment, approximately 40% also reported using cannabis in the past month [6].
  • Approximately 60% of individuals with a substance use disorder meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one other mental health disorder.
  • The co-occurrence of substance use disorders and mental health disorders can complicate treatment and increase the risk of negative outcomes, such as overdose and suicide.

Understanding the prevalence, demographics, and patterns of marijuana use, as well as the co-occurring use of other substances, provides valuable insights into the landscape of marijuana addiction. By acknowledging these statistics, individuals and communities can work towards effective prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies to address the challenges associated with marijuana addiction.

Risks and Concerns of Marijuana Use

Marijuana use carries certain risks and concerns, particularly when it comes to potential addiction and its impact on cognitive function and overall health. In this section, we will delve into the gateway hypothesis and substance use progression, the cognitive impairment associated with marijuana use, and the health consequences of heavy cannabis use.

Gateway Hypothesis and Substance Use Progression

The gateway hypothesis suggests that individuals rarely use certain substances such as heroin or cocaine without first having used "gateway" substances like alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis. However, the predictors of progression from cannabis use to other illicit drugs remain largely unknown. While the gateway hypothesis continues to be debated among researchers, studies have shown that cannabis use is associated with reduced odds of achieving abstinence from alcohol, cocaine, or polysubstance use after inpatient hospitalization and treatment for substance use disorders. Additionally, cannabis users are at a higher risk for heavy drinking compared to non-users [5]. It's important to consider these factors when evaluating the potential risks of marijuana use.

Marijuana Use and Cognitive Impairment

  • Marijuana use can cause functional impairment in cognitive abilities, particularly in memory, attention, and learning.
  • The degree of impairment depends on factors such as the age when a person began using, the amount used, and the duration of use.
  • Among individuals who started using marijuana before age 18 and continued to use heavily into adulthood, there was an average loss of 8 IQ points by mid-adulthood compared to their baseline scores.
  • Among nearly 4,000 young adults tracked over a 25-year period, cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana was associated with lower scores on a test of verbal memory, even after adjusting for other drug and alcohol use.
  • Heavy marijuana use during adolescence has been associated with structural abnormalities in the brain, particularly in areas related to emotion regulation and decision-making.
  • Chronic THC exposure may contribute to age-related loss of hippocampal neurons, potentially leading to memory impairment and cognitive issues later in life.
  • A study of over 3,800 young adults found that frequent marijuana use was associated with impaired cortical oscillatory activity, which is important for cognitive processes such as attention and working memory.
  • Marijuana use can interfere with normal sleep patterns, leading to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. This can further impair cognitive function during waking hours.
  • A study of heavy marijuana users found that they had lower blood flow to the brain compared to non-users, which may contribute to cognitive deficits.
  • While some research suggests that cognitive deficits may improve after stopping marijuana use, other studies have found that some deficits may persist even after long periods of abstinence.

Health Consequences of Heavy Cannabis Use

Heavy and chronic use of marijuana can have significant health consequences. While there have been no reported cases of individuals dying from using marijuana alone, high doses of THC or using more marijuana than intended can lead to unpleasant side effects such as paranoia, anxiety, and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes that may include hallucinations or delusions. Moreover, chronic and frequent use of marijuana can lead to physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms may occur when a person with significant physical dependence stops using the drug. These symptoms can include irritability, mood disturbances, insomnia, cravings, reduced appetite, and physical discomfort. It's important to note that individuals with a marijuana use disorder may experience compulsive marijuana use that impairs several areas of life, and healthcare professionals use diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5) to diagnose a substance use disorder related to marijuana.

Understanding the risks and concerns associated with marijuana use is crucial for making informed decisions regarding its consumption. While further research is needed to fully comprehend the long-term effects and potential consequences, it is essential to prioritize one's mental and physical well-being when considering marijuana use.

Global Perspective on Cannabis Use

Understanding the global perspective on cannabis use provides valuable insights into the prevalence of its consumption, trends in developed countries, and the therapeutic uses and ongoing research surrounding it.

Prevalence of Cannabis Use Worldwide

  • Cannabis is the most widely cultivated, trafficked, and abused illicit drug globally.
  • Approximately 147 million people, constituting 2.5% of the world population, consume cannabis annually.
  • This consumption rate is significantly higher when compared to the 0.2% consumption rate of cocaine and opiates.
  • In 2019, an estimated 4% of the global population aged 15-64 (approximately 192 million people) had used cannabis in the past year.
  • Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the United States, with an estimated 43.5 million people (or 16.8% of the population) reporting past-year use in 2019.
  • The prevalence of cannabis use has been increasing in many countries over the past few decades. For example, between 1990 and 2016, the prevalence of cannabis use in Canada increased from 8% to 15% among individuals aged 15-64.
  • Cannabis use is particularly prevalent among young adults. In Canada, for example, approximately one-third of individuals aged 20-24 reported using cannabis in the past year.
  • The highest rates of cannabis use are generally found in developed countries such as North America, Western Europe, and Australia [1].
  • In some countries where cannabis is not widely used, there has been a recent increase in consumption. For example, between 2010 and 2016, the prevalence of cannabis use among adults in France increased from 4.1% to 6.6% [8].
  • Cannabis remains illegal in many countries around the world, but some have begun to legalize it for medical or recreational purposes. As of early 2021, over 30 countries had legalized medical cannabis, and several had also legalized recreational use [9].

Cannabis Use Trends in Developed Countries

Cannabis consumption patterns indicate that it is consumed more widely than opiates and cocaine. However, due to its relatively lower prices, the cannabis market is smaller in economic terms compared to the markets for other illicit drugs. An analysis of cannabis markets reveals that low prices are associated with high levels of abuse, and vice versa. The age of initiation for cannabis use tends to be lower compared to other drugs, and it is often closely linked to youth culture.

Therapeutic Uses and Research

While the recreational use of cannabis is widely recognized, there is ongoing research into its therapeutic effects and potential medical applications. Cannabinoids, the active compounds found in cannabis, have demonstrated therapeutic effects in treating various conditions. For example, cannabinoids have been effective in alleviating nausea and vomiting in advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Dronabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol), a synthetic form of THC (one of the cannabinoids), has been prescribed in the USA for over a decade. Controlled studies have also shown therapeutic uses in treating asthma, glaucoma, acting as an antidepressant, appetite stimulant, anticonvulsant, and anti-spasmodic. Ongoing research aims to explore additional therapeutic applications of cannabinoids [7].

Understanding the global perspective on cannabis use provides a broader context for evaluating the prevalence, trends, and potential therapeutic benefits associated with its consumption. It is important to consider both the recreational and medical aspects of cannabis use when discussing its impact on individuals and society as a whole.

The Debate on Marijuana Legalization

As the use of marijuana becomes more prevalent, the debate surrounding its legalization continues to gain momentum. In this section, we will explore the changing attitudes and efforts towards legalization, the impact of marijuana arrests, and the social stigma associated with substance use disorders.

Changing Attitudes and Legalization Efforts

In the United States, the legalization of marijuana has become a highly debated topic in politics. Currently, 18 states (36% of the nation) permit recreational marijuana use, while 36 states (72% of the country) have legalized medical marijuana. This increasing acceptance of marijuana is fueled by its rise for medical use and the diminishing social stigma associated with its consumption.

Advocates for legalization argue that it can generate tax revenue, create jobs, and reduce the burden on the criminal justice system. They also highlight the potential benefits of regulating the market to ensure product safety and quality control. On the other hand, opponents express concerns about the potential negative effects of marijuana use, such as impaired driving, increased youth access, and potential dependency issues.

Impact of Marijuana Arrests

Despite the growing acceptance and usage of marijuana, along with legalization in some parts of the country, marijuana arrests still contribute to a significant proportion of drug-related arrests in the United States. In fact, marijuana arrests now exceed half of all drug arrests. This discrepancy between the changing public opinions and the continued enforcement of marijuana laws highlights the complex nature of the issue.

Critics of marijuana criminalization argue that these arrests disproportionately affect marginalized communities and perpetuate systemic inequalities. They argue that resources spent on enforcing marijuana laws could be better utilized in addressing more pressing issues, such as public health concerns or drug education and rehabilitation programs.

Social Stigma and Substance Use Disorders

Marijuana use, like any substance use disorder, is often accompanied by social stigma. Individuals who use marijuana may face judgment and discrimination due to societal perceptions and stereotypes associated with substance use. This stigma can hinder individuals from seeking help or openly discussing their struggles.

Substance use disorders, including marijuana addiction, can have a significant impact on an individual's life. Healthcare professionals use diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5) to diagnose marijuana use disorders. Symptoms may include compulsive marijuana use that impairs various areas of life.

Reducing the social stigma associated with substance use disorders is crucial in promoting a compassionate and understanding approach to individuals seeking help. It is important to provide access to treatment and support services for those struggling with marijuana addiction or any other substance use disorder.

The debate surrounding marijuana legalization is complex and multifaceted, with varying viewpoints and considerations. Understanding the evolving attitudes towards marijuana, the impact of marijuana arrests, and the social stigma associated with substance use disorders is essential in shaping informed discussions and policies related to marijuana use and its potential legalization.

References

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