Increase in prevalence of marijuana abuse and dependence

A new study shows that the prevalence of marijuana use among U.S. adults has remained stable over the past decade, but the prevalence of marijuana abuse or dependence has increased significantly, possibly related to increased potency of the substance, according to a report in the May 5 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Marijuana has been the most common illicit substance used in the United States for several decades, and among illicit substance use disorders, marijuana use disorders are the most prevalent in the population, according to background information in the article. Marijuana use is associated with impaired educational attainment, reduced workplace productivity, and increased risk of use of other substances. Marijuana use plays a major role in motor vehicle crashes and has adverse effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Despite the seriousness of marijuana abuse and dependence, no long-term trend information has been available.

Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E., from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Md., and colleagues assessed changes in marijuana use, abuse, and dependence in the U.S. population. The study consisted of face-to-face interviews conducted in 2 large national surveys conducted 10 years apart: the 1991-1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey ([NLAES] n=42,862) and the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions ([NESARC] n = 43,093).

Among the U.S. adult population, the prevalence of marijuana use remained stable at about 4 percent over the past decade, while the prevalence of marijuana dependence or abuse significantly increased between 1991-1992 (1.2 percent) and 2001-2002 (1.5 percent). The greatest increases were among young black men and women and young Hispanic men. Marijuana use disorders among marijuana users increased in the

Contact: Blair Gately
JAMA and Archives Journals

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