The number of Americans using marijuana is on the rise and so are the rates of marijuana use disorder. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who said they used in the past year was more than double the percentage reported between the years of 2001 to 2002 and 2012 to 2013. And the number of adults diagnosed with marijuana use disorder increased almost as much during that period of time. Reports of past year cannabis use went from 4.1% to 9.5% among adults in the U.S. and the percentage of adults with cannabis use disorder went from 1.5% to 2.9%, which shows it nearly doubled. This is all according to the National Institutes of Health’s survey taken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

These show that the rise in cannabis use among adults in the U.S. had moved quite quickly over the past ten years, with nearly 3 in 10 adults who use actually fitting criteria for marijuana use disorder, meaning they’re addicted.

During the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol & Related Conditions (NESARC) conducted by the NIAAA regarding years 2001 to 2001 and 2012 to 2013, a total of 79,000 individuals were questioned about drug use, alcohol use, and the psychiatric conditions related to these issues.

The drastic increase in those using marijuana and those diagnosed with cannabis use disorder reveals a significant difference from previous results. Cannabis use had stayed constant at approximately 4% of adults in the U.S. between the years of 1991 to 1992 and 2001 to 2002, although marijuana those abusing and dependent on marijuana went up from 1.2% to 1.5%.

Looking at the current survey, about 30% of those who reported using marijuana in the prior year met the criteria for being actually diagnosed with marijuana use disorder for the 2012 to 2013 time period. The symptoms leading to this diagnosis would be taking the drug in ever larger amounts or using it over a longer period of time than initially intended; an unrelenting desire to cut back or take control of using and being unsuccessful in these efforts; failing to meet the major obligations of their position at work, home or school due to cannabis use; and building up a tolerance and/or experiencing withdrawal.

When the age of the user was looked at, young adults from 18 to 29 years old were shown to be at the greatest risk of using marijuana and of being diagnosed with cannabis use disorder. Figures showed that use increased from 10.5% to 21.2% and those diagnosed with the disorder increased from 4.4% to 7.5% during the past ten years.

What stood out most noticeably were the increases among Blacks and Hispanics regarding both the prevalence of use and the diagnosis of marijuana use disorder. For Blacks the increase in cannabis use went from 4/7% to 12.7% over the prior decade and for Hispanics it increased from 3.3% to 8.4%. Blacks with cannabis use disorder went from 1.8% to 4.6% and for Hispanics, 1.2% to 2.8% over the same period of time. These were statistically significant increases in marijuana use and in those diagnosed with marijuana use disorder.

There have been scientific and medical studies funded by NIAAA and NIDA that have revealed that marijuana use impairs one’s ability to drive safely. Drivers under the influence of cannabis have been shown to weave in and out of lanes more frequently, and since medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado, drivers in that state involved in fatal car collisions are significantly more likely to have been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident. Studies reveal that if someone uses alcohol and marijuana together their driving is impaired even more than if they had used just one or the other. It may be that drinking alcohol increases the absorption of the THC in cannabis, which is the psychoactive substance in marijuana.

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