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Federal report: Adult marijuana use up, perception of harm down

September 2, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) spanning 12 years show increases in adult use of marijuana and suggest that this trend is likely to continue.

Reported this week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the research indicates that daily or near-daily use of marijuana in the past month was reported by 3.5% of Americans ages 18 and over in 2014, compared with 2% in 2002. There actually was a decrease in the same measure for youths ages 12 to 17. At the same time, while 51.3% of individuals ages 12 and older said in 2002 that there was great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week, the percentage had dropped to only 34.3% perceiving such risk in 2014.

The report states in interpreting the results, “A decrease in the perception of great risk from smoking marijuana combined with increases in the perception of availability (i.e., fairly easy or very easy to obtain marijuana) and fewer punitive legal penalties (e.g., no penalty) for the possession of marijuana for personal use might play a role in increased use among adults.”

One finding that appears to contradict past research indicates that past-year rates of marijuana abuse and dependence decreased by 29% and 11%, respectively, from 2002-2014. Results from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, released last year, had shown a doubling of the marijuana abuse rate over a similar period, The Guardian reported this week.

Authors of the CDC report suggest that the apparent lack of an expected link between increased use and increased abuse could be a result of medical marijuana users' exposure to strains with less abuse potential. But they added that more research in this area is necessary, with possible refinements needed in measures of frequency in order to reflect emerging trends in marijuana consumption.

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