Marijuana Abuse Rising Among Adults
Marijuana Use Remains Steady, Dependence on Drug Increasing
May 4, 2004 -- The number of Americans who use marijuana is
holding steady, but a growing number of adults are abusing or dependent on the
drug, according to a new study.
Researchers say that trend suggests that the marijuana being
sold and used in the U.S. is becoming increasingly potent, which raises the
potential risks of drug abuse.
The study shows that marijuana use has remained stable over the
last decade with about 4% of adults reporting use of the illegal drug in the
past year. But overall rates of marijuana abuse or dependence rose from 1.2% in
1991-1992 to 1.5% in 2001-2002.
"This can be translated into an increase from 2.2 million
to 3.0 million, respectively, in terms of population estimates," write
Wilson M. Compton, MD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the
National Institutes of Health, and colleagues.
They define an addiction as a chronic, relapsing disease
characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and abuse and by long-lasting chemical
changes in the brain.
Although the rates of marijuana dependence and abuse among
white young adults remains high, researchers say the most dramatic increases
were among young black men and women and young Hispanic men.
Marijuana Abuse Rising
In the study, which appears in the May 5 issue of The
Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at changes
in marijuana use, abuse, and dependence in the U.S. based on two large national
surveys conducted 10 years apart in 1991-1992 and in 2001-2002.
Researchers found about 4% of the respondents reported using
marijuana in the past year in both surveys. However, certain groups did show
significant increases in marijuana use, such as young black and Hispanic women
and middle-age men and women.
The study also showed that marijuana abuse was more common than
dependence, and both increased during the last decade. Rates of marijuana abuse
rose from 0.9% to 1.1% and dependence increased from 0.3% to 0.4%.
Among those who reported marijuana use in the last year, the
rates of abuse or dependence on the drug rose even more significantly, from
about 30% in 1991-1992 to nearly 36% in 2001-2002.
Most groups showed increases in marijuana abuse or dependence,
but the increases were greatest among young black men and women and young
Researchers say the results suggest that factors affecting the
addiction potential of marijuana are prompting increases in marijuana abuse and
dependence. Those factors likely include the increased potency of marijuana
being used in the U.S. and rises in marijuana use among youth.
"What is clear is that no single environmental factor can
explain the increases in marijuana use disorders observed in this study among
certain minority subgroups of the population," write the authors.
"From a broader public health perspective, the results of
this study highlight the need to strengthen existing prevention and
intervention efforts and to develop and implement widely new programs with the
sex, racial/ethnic, and age differentials observed in this study in mind,"