Pot Use Doubles Among Americans in Past Decade
But some experts say some of the increase may just be more people telling the truth
By Steven Reinberg
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- As laws and attitudes about marijuana have relaxed in the past decade, the number of Americans who say they smoke pot has more than doubled, a new report shows.
And with that increase in use, there has come an increase in abuse: Nearly three of 10 marijuana users had a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013, the researchers said.
"While the public increasingly sees marijuana as a harmless drug, its use does involve some risks of adverse consequences, and as the rate of marijuana users in the population increases, the risk of these consequences increases as well," said lead researcher Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City.
Health care professionals, policy makers and the public must deal with the findings in a balanced way, she added.
Laws and attitudes about marijuana are changing, Hasin said. To date, 23 states have medical marijuana laws and four of these states have also legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Looking at data on marijuana use is especially important, Hasin said, as "individuals continue to make personal choices about using marijuana, and the public continues to consider legalization."
The report was published online Oct. 21 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Another recent report, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found a doubling in marijuana use among high school students. The number of teens using marijuana had increased from 4 percent to 10 percent by 2013. And marijuana use jumped from 51 percent to 62 percent among teens who smoked cigarettes or cigars.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a marijuana legalization advocacy group, doesn't think that the potential health problems related to marijuana are any greater than those related to legal alcohol or tobacco.
"It has long been acknowledged that cannabis is a mood-altering substance with some risk potential," he said.
However, these potential risks, when measured against other substances -- including legal substances such as alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications -- are not so great that they warrant keeping marijuana illegal, he added.