About 24 million people currently use marijuana, making it the most popular illicit drug in America. In 2016, nearly 4 million people were addicted to marijuana or experienced significant marijuana-related problems. Most people who abuse marijuana do not seek treatment.
Marijuana is one of the most popular substances of abuse in the United States. According to federal data, more than 118 million Americans aged 12 or older have used marijuana in their lifetime. Cannabis use is more common than the use of cocaine, hallucinogens and inhalants combined.
How Many Americans Use Marijuana?
Each year, the federal government conducts a nationwide survey on substance use and mental health trends. The results can be found in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The 2017 survey found that:
- About 24 million people reported that they were current marijuana users in 2016. This represents nearly 9 percent of the U.S. population.
- Among current marijuana users, about 14.7 million are men and about 9.3 million are women.
- Adults ages 26 and older had the highest rate of past-month marijuana use.
- The percentage of current marijuana users in 2016 was higher than the percentages from 2002 to 2015.
- On average, people try marijuana for the first time at age 19.
Since 2011, the average age of first marijuana use has gradually increased. This indicates that people are waiting until they are older to use the substance. Among the substances measured in the survey, only alcohol was used more frequently by Americans.
Emergency Room Visits
Despite the common misconception that it is harmless, marijuana has many long-term side effects. These consequences include lung cancer and brain development problems in teens. But the drug’s short-term side effects can require immediate medical attention.
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the rate at which people visited the emergency department for cannabis problems increased from 51 to 73 visits per 100,000 people from 2004 to 2011.
The report also found that teens aged 12 to 17 had the largest increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits. Non-Hispanic blacks visited the ER for marijuana problems more than any other ethnic or racial group.
Marijuana-related ER visits were the result of adverse reactions, malicious poisoning and accidental ingestion. Taking more cannabis than what your body can handle can cause a marijuana overdose.
Marijuana and Teens
More teens used marijuana in the year in 2017 than in 2016, according to the Monitoring the Future survey. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the annual report examines substance use trends among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students.
Percentage of Students Who Used Marijuana in the Past Month, 2017:
- Eighth grade – 5.5%
- 10th grade – 15.7%
- 12th grade – 22.9%
More high school seniors used cannabis in the past 30 days than all eighth- and 10th-graders combined. In total, 14.5 percent of the students surveyed were current marijuana users in 2017.
Medical Marijuana Statistics
Medical marijuana includes natural or synthetic cannabis that many people use to treat pain, illnesses or medical symptoms. Researchers have studied the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana in treating a variety of conditions, including inflammation, cancer-related nausea, multiple sclerosis and mental health disorders.
As of 2017, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Among these states, California has the highest number of legal medical marijuana patients. Michigan has the second highest number patients, and Arizona has the third most.
NUMBER OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS BY STATE, AUGUST 2017
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Food and Drug Administration has not recognized or approved the cannabis plant as medicine. Two FDA-approved medications contain a synthetic form of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The drug remains a Schedule I drug, making it illegal in the United States.
How Many Americans Have a Marijuana Use Disorder?
Chronic marijuana use can lead to a marijuana use disorder, a condition that varies in severity. Most people with the disorder are dependent on the drug but not addicted. Dependence means people rely on the drug to get through the day. They also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.
Marijuana addiction occurs when people cannot stop using the substance even though it interferes with many aspects of their life. They compulsively seek the drug despite the health, social and legal consequences.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:
- Nearly 4 million people had a marijuana use disorder in 2016.
- The number of people with a marijuana use disorder has gradually declined since 2012.
- Five percent of adults aged 18 to 25 had a marijuana use disorder in 2016.
- The percentage of people with a marijuana use disorder was highest among 18- to 25-year-olds.
Research shows that 9 percent of marijuana users develop dependence, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Individuals who begin using marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.
Marijuana and Mental Health Facts and Figures
Researchers have identified a link between marijuana use and mental health disorders such as depression.
The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 28 percent of adults who used marijuana in the past year reported experiencing a major depressive episode. That year, 9.7 percent of past-year marijuana users had serious thoughts of suicide.
Overall, about 24 percent of adults who used marijuana in the past year had a mental illness in 2016. Among those with a mental disorder, 30.6 percent had a condition that caused serious functional impairment.
A 2017 study published in the journal Addiction found that youth with chronic or severe depression in early adolescence face a higher risk for developing a marijuana use disorder than adolescents with fewer symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression include reduced interest in everyday activities, weight loss, fatigue and changes in sleeping patterns.
Other facts about marijuana and mental health:
- The relationship between marijuana and psychiatric disorders is influenced by the amount of marijuana used, the age at first use and genetic factors.
- Marijuana use can lead to schizophrenia in people already at risk for developing the disorder.
- Some evidence shows cannabis use is associated with suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide among teens.
Importance of Treatment
The best way to overcome marijuana dependence and co-occurring disorders is to seek treatment. But the vast majority of people with a marijuana use disorder do not get help. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 30,000 people received treatment for a marijuana use disorder in 2016.
Evidence-based treatment at an addiction treatment center can help people overcome their problems with cannabis and learn how to live a healthy life in sobriety.
- Ahrnsbrak, R. et al. (2017, September). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/defaul[…]/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.pdf
- Boston University. (n.d.). Major Depressive Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.bu.edu/card/get-help/conditi[…]depressive-disorder/
- Healthdirect. (2017, September). Marijuana and mental health. Retrieved from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/marijuana-and-mental-health
- Johnston, L.D. et al. (2018, January). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2017: Overview, Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Retrieved from #
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, February). Is marijuana addictive? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/r[…]/marijuana-addictive
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, February). Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/m[…]sychiatric-disorders
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, April). Marijuana as Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/d[…]s/marijuana-medicine
- Rhew, I.C. et al. (2017, June 10). Examination of cumulative effects of early adolescent depression on cannabis and alcohol use disorder in late adolescence in a community‐based cohort. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/add.13907
- Statista. (n.d.). Number of legal medical marijuana patients in the U.S. as of August 2017, by state. Retrieved from HTTPS://www.statista.com/statistics/585154/us[…]uana-patients-state/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017, September 7). Results From The 2016 National Survey On Drug Use And Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/defaul[…]DUH-DetTabs-2016.pdf
- University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. (2017, December 14). National Adolescent Drug Trends in 2017: Findings Released. Retrieved from #
- University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. (2017). Table 3 Trends in 30-Day Prevalence of Use of Various Drugs in Grades 8, 10, and 12. Retrieved from #
- University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. (2017). Table 16 Trends in 30-Day Prevalence of Use of Various Drugs for Grades 8, 10, and 12 Combined. Retrieved from #
- Zhu, H. & Wu, L. (2016, November 1). Trends and correlates of cannabis-involved emergency department visits: 2004 to 2011. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5083207/
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