More Americans Are Using Pot On A Daily Basis

By Kelly Burch 09/12/17

New data shows that marijuana users are three times more likely than alcohol users to indulge daily.

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The percentage of cannabis users who use daily (or near-daily) has increased by 50% since 2002—with 19% of people who use cannabis reporting that they do so almost everyday. 

This is according to federal data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The data also showed that the number of people who use marijuana has also risen—from 10.4% of Americans in 2002 to 14.1% last year. 

The rates of marijuana use varied among age categories. The survey found that 8.9% of Americans older than 12 had used pot in the past year. Among teens aged 12 to 17, rates of use fell to 6.5%. About 7% of adults aged 26 and older used marijuana last year, an increase over previous years. Young adults aged 18 to 25 had the highest rates, with one-in-five reporting use in the past year, the same percentage as in 2014 and 2015.

“Although progress has been made in some areas, especially among young people, there are many challenges we need to meet in addressing the behavioral health issues facing our nation,” Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, said in a press release.

While it may be natural to expect that more people are trying pot as it becomes legal and accessible in more areas of the country, the sharp rise in daily use was alarming to some. While just 12% of users reported daily or near-daily use in 2002, that number reached nearly 19% in 2016. 

Some people compare daily marijuana use to daily alcohol use. However, the Washington Post analyzed data that showed that marijuana users are three times more likely than alcohol users to indulge daily. The data also showed that daily alcohol use has remained steady, while daily marijuana use has increased dramatically. 

Some public health officials are alarmed by the information. Last year National Affairs reported that "more than half of marijuana is consumed by someone who is under the influence more than half of all their waking hours." According to the magazine, 21% of marijuana users meet the criteria for abuse or dependence, and current research suggests that 9% of people who try marijuana will become dependent upon it at some point. 

However, Jonathan Caulkins, a Carnegie Mellon University researcher who authored the National Affairs story, argues that questioning the safety of marijuana “[misses] the point.”

“The essential problem with marijuana is neither death from overdose nor organ failure from chronic use. Marijuana might better be described as a performance-degrading drug and, more dangerously, as a temptation commodity with habituating tendencies,” he wrote. “Marijuana dependence is neither fatal nor as debilitating as alcoholism, but it is real, harmful, and far more common than is generally acknowledged.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.