Marijuana use has more than doubled since the turn of the century, a study has found. Researchers discovered that marijuana use is becoming more acceptable in today’s society, possibly due to the growing legalization of the drug by some states. In addition, studies have shown the perception of danger associated with marijuana use has also declined, particularly among teens and young adults in the U.S.
Last fall, researchers from Columbia University released findings of their study that showed marijuana use is on the rise in the U.S. The scientists compared data from face-to-face interviews with 43,000 adults between 2001 and 2002 and 36,000 between 2012 and 2013. They found marijuana use rose from four percent at the start of the new century, to 10 percent a little more than a decade later. Researchers also found marijuana use disorders increased, from 1.5 percent to around three percent.
“What was quite clear is the prevalence of use among adults had more than doubled,” Deborah Hasin, lead author of the study, told Yahoo News. The scientists also found that as marijuana use rose, marijuana use disorders rose at nearly the same rate. The increases in marijuana use were especially large among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and people living in the South. The numbers also increased among middle-aged and older Americans.
Other Concerning Numbers
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) calls marijuana the most widely used illicit drug among adolescents and adults in the U.S. Unfortunately, as use of the substance has increased, so have medical emergencies associated with pot use. In 2011, nearly 465,000 emergency room visits included mention of marijuana use. While that does not mean all of those visits were directly related to marijuana use, it does indicate use of the drug is present with numerous E.R. patients.
Pew Research Center found last year that nearly half of Americans have admitted to at least trying marijuana at some point. In addition, 18.9 million Americans over the age of 12 had used the substance within the past month of the survey. More than two-thirds believe alcohol use is more harmful than marijuana use.
As marijuana use has risen, so have the perceptions that this substance is safe. In fact, as medical marijuana laws have been passed in 23 states, some are even deciding marijuana use could be beneficial to their health in some ways. This dangerous and inaccurate perception has been a driving force behind the widespread support of marijuana legalization and possibly the increased use of marijuana across the country.
The misplaced perception is particularly dangerous among adolescents. According to NIDA, more than three-fourths of marijuana use begins between the ages of 12 and 20. Every day, 3,287 teens use the substance for the first time. As perception of the drug’s potential dangers decreases, use of pot tends to increase among this age demographic.
The Truth about Marijuana
There are plenty of studies that negate the idea that marijuana is a “safe” drug. NIDA links heavy marijuana use among teens to:
- Lower grades
- Lower likelihood of graduating from high school
- Reduced likelihood of enrolling in college
- More likely to be unemployed
- More likely to earn a lower wage
- Lower satisfaction with life overall
Studies have also found marijuana to be harmful to the body, both in the long and short term. The short-term effects of marijuana include:
- Impaired coordination
- Altered sense of perception
- Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
- Lower reaction time
- Impaired decision-making
- Increased heart rate and risk of heart attack
- Possible anxiety and panic
Long-term damage from marijuana continues to be studied. What we do know is that marijuana may lead to brain damage, particularly among younger users. NIDA states marijuana use during the teen years can cause a drop if IQ of up to eight points, which may be permanent for some people. Other long-term effects might include:
- Suppressed immune system, greater vulnerability to illness
- Difficulty learning and retaining new information
- Personality and mood changes
- Reduced sexual performance, fertility problems
- Breathing difficulties and lung damage
- Drowsiness and apathy to things once enjoyed
Despite the many effects that have been seen with marijuana use, legalization of the substance continues to grow. In addition to the 23 states that have approved marijuana for medicinal use, four states have made pot legal for recreational use as well. The Washington Post recently reported that a number of states, including California, Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts, may be considering pot legalization on their ballots this fall.
Support for marijuana legalization is now higher than opposition, according to Pew Research Center. Around 53 percent of people in the U.S. now support legalization of the drug. In 1969, the first time the question of marijuana legalization arose, only 12 percent supported this change. Millennials made up a large number of those in favor of legalizing pot, with more than two-thirds supporting legalization. By the same token, only 29 percent of people ages 70-87, known as the “silent generation,” support legalization. Still nearly one-third in this age group is a distinct change from their younger years, when only 12 percent supported the idea.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
The debate on marijuana addiction continues as well, particularly in light of increasing legalization of the drug. While many assert marijuana is not addictive like other illicit substances, there is evidence that it can be habit-forming. Heavy users may experience tolerance to the substance (needing more to get the same effects) and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped.
At West Coast Recovery Centers, we work with men and women struggling with marijuana abuse. We have seen firsthand in our patients how this drug is harmful in many different ways. In addition, stopping use can be extremely challenging for some users, making this drug just as dangerous as other illicit drugs or alcohol.
If you are dealing with marijuana abuse, don’t struggle alone. Contact West Coast Recovery Centers today at 442-333-6199 today to get the help you need.