Cannabis Use Disorder Rising In The US

By Desiree Bowie 11/14/19

Cannabis use disorder affects 30% of the people who use the drug.

women with cannabis use disorder rolling a joint
ID 151357846 © Leonid Yastremskiy |

It has been a popular misconception that you cannot become dependent on cannabis. It's called cannabis use disorder and it is a lot more common than people think. Cannabis use disorder affects 30% of people who use the drug, a number that is steadily rising in states that have legalized it.

What Is Cannabis Use Disorder?

Here's the definition of cannabis use disorder, according to

People who use marijuana frequently often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks. Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

Over the past decade, cannabis has become increasingly more potent. THC content in cannabis went from 3.8% in the early 90s to a whopping 12% in 2014. Federal prohibition has limited the research surrounding the effects of marijuana use on the brain and body. And researchers fear that the growing potency could have an unhealthy impact on the brains of underage users.

A new study published in JAMA Network, explored how cannabis use and rates of cannabis use disorder changed from 2008 to 2016 after a number of states legalized the sibstance.

Breaking Down The Stats

  • Cannabis use rose from 2.18% to 2.72% among those aged 12 to 17
  • Frequent cannabis use rose from 2.13% to 2.62% among those 26 and older
  • Cannabis use disorder rose from 0.90% to 1.23% among those 26 and older

Compared to opioid use disorder, the rates of cannabis use disorder are incredibly low but the growing potency and availability of the drug suggests that the rates will conintue to increase especially if cannabis is descheduled and the federal prohibiton ends.

The study's authors found that while legalization and decriminalization have helped some non-violent marijuana offenders of color receive justice and shined a light on the racial disparity in marijuana-related arrests, cannabis use disorder still remains a concern that needs to be addressed. 

Currently, medical cannabis use is legal in 33 states, DC and almost all US territories. Recreational cannabis is legal in 11 states and DC. 

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Desiree Bowie is a writer and movie lover from Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @dangerbowie