At present, marijuana appreciates a unique legal status in terms of its usage. The federal government treats marijuana as a Schedule I substance, which means federal authorities consider it to have no medicinal merit and to be highly addictive, but some states disagree. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23 states have decriminalized marijuana use for certain medical conditions and four states permit marijuana consumption for recreational purposes. In the remaining states, there is a wholesale ban (or other regulation) on marijuana use.
The fact that marijuana is treated differently from state to state, and between the federal government and some of the states, suggests the controversy, and possibly the confusion, surrounding this drug. But one thing is clear, regardless of the legality of this drug in some states, marijuana is a mind-altering substance, and it is necessary for the public to be educated on important facts about it.
The Drug Policy Alliance discusses that marijuana appears to serve as a twin force of good and bad in America, as these facts suggest:
- In 2012, there were 749,825 people arrested for marijuana related violations.
- The potency of marijuana has increased over the last few decades, which some advocates of marijuana legalization believe is specifically due to its prohibition.
- Research has found that marijuana can help improve uncomfortable symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and glaucoma, and it may even be a useful alternative to prescription painkillers.
- In 2013, Maine and Oregon added post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions for which marijuana can be medically prescribed.
2013 Survey Results
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides a comprehensive and thorough insight into drug use in America. In reference to marijuana, the 2013 NSDUH not only demonstrates the drug’s popularity by age group but reveals important trends in its use.
According to the 2013 NSDUH
, marijuana was the number one most consumed illicit substance in the US. In the month prior to the survey, there were 19.8 million users (that’s 7.5 percent of the population aged 12 and older). The rate has not increased significantly compared to the prior year; in 2012, there were 18.9 million prior month users (7.3 percent of the population aged 12 and older). However, the 2013 rate shows that the passage of time brings an escalation in use. The 2013 rates were greater than those from 2002 to 2011, when 5.8 to 7 percent of the population aged 12 or older used marijuana.
In light of the popularity of marijuana, it may come as no surprise that this drug recruits new users with considerable frequency. In 2013, there were 2.4 million new users aged 12 or older, which breaks down to about 6,600 new marijuana consumers per day. This statistic shows an increase from 2002 through 2007, when new users ranged from two million to 2.2 million. To give a closer indication of the age of new users, the study pinpointed that approximately 1.4 million marijuana users aged 12 or older who started using marijuana in the prior year did so under the age of 18.
For many marijuana consumers, the experience is not about one-time use. There are a significant number of daily or almost daily users of this drug. The 2013 survey found that among marijuana abusers, 8.1 million had used marijuana on 20 or more days in the prior month. This was a significant increase from the 5.1 million daily/almost daily users in 2005 to 2007.
A longstanding concern about marijuana use relates to its association with alcohol and other drugs. Among Americans who abused more than one drug, 80.6 percent included marijuana among the drugs they used. This means that for every five Americans who are in the habit of using drugs, four of them will also be marijuana consumers. In other words, abusing marijuana may not necessarily make a person prone to doing other drugs, such as cocaine, but once a person is abusing other drugs, it’s very likely that they have also consumed marijuana.
Further, the survey revealed that youth who smoke marijuana tend to also have other unhealthy habits. In the group of 12 to 17 year olds who smoke cigarettes, the rate of marijuana use was 11 times greater than those who did not smoke cigarettes (49.5 percent versus 4.6 percent). There was also a strong association between alcohol and marijuana consumption. In the same age group, 57.9 percent who were defined as heavy drinkers were also current marijuana users (heavy drinking in the survey context means having five or more drinks in the same day on each of five or more days in the prior 30-day period). Among the 12 to 17 year olds who both drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes, this group was approximately 25 times more likely to abuse marijuana than their peers who did not smoke and drink in the prior month of the survey (59.7 percent versus 2.4 percent).
Addictiveness of Marijuana
As the 2013 survey shows, marijuana is not only popular, but it continues to gain popularity as new users continue to join the fold. But does marijuana have an addictiveness that is responsible for its popularity? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately nine percent of people who use marijuana will become addicted. However, the risk of addiction increases depending on certain factors. Approximately one in six marijuana users who start using this drug in their teens will become addicted. For daily users, the rate of addiction climbs to 25 to 50 percent.
Those who become addicted may experience withdrawal symptoms when they abstain or radically reduce their degree of intake. Addicted users in withdrawal may experience problems with sleep, marijuana cravings, irritability, anxiety and increased aggression.
Although marijuana has become a politicized topic in America, the facts on marijuana abuse highlight the impact of this drug on everyday people. The 2013 NSDUH survey results illuminate a bundling effect – that illicit drug users, cigarette smokers, and alcohol users often tend to also use marijuana — which adds another layer of caution to marijuana use, whatever its particular legal status.
Our Rehab International admissions coordinators understand the health threats marijuana poses as well as the challenge many abusers and loved ones face when trying to treat marijuana. We can help you to connect with the rehab services you, or your loved one, require to treat abuse of marijuana and other substances that are being used concurrently.