While U.S. teens seem to be turning away from the drug, abuse of marijuana by adults increased between 1991 and 2002, according to addiction researchers at the National Institutes of Health. While the number of people reporting use of the drug remained substantially the same, marijuana abuse or dependence increased markedly, especially among young African-American men and women and young Hispanic men.
The researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) compared trends in marijuana use, abuse, and dependence using the DSM-IV categories. The DSM defines marijuana abuse as "repeated instances of use under hazardous conditions; repeated, clinically meaningful impairment in social/occupational/educational functioning; or legal problems related to marijuana use." Marijuana dependence is defined as "increased tolerance, compulsive use, impaired control, and continued use despite physical and psychological problems caused or exacerbated by use."
"Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance in the United States, and its use is associated with educational underachievement, reduced workplace productivity, motor vehicle accidents, and increased risk of use of other substances," says NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow in a press release. "This study suggests that we need to develop ways to monitor the continued rise in marijuana abuse and dependence and strengthen existing prevention and intervention efforts, particularly developing and implementing new programs that specifically target African-American and Hispanic young adults."
A total of 42,862 men and women ages 18 years and older participated in the study during 1991-1992, while 2001-2002 study included 43,093 similarly aged men and women. Both surveys posed the same core questions to assess marijuana use, abuse, and dependence.
"The value of well-designed and well-executed epidemiologic studies is that they point to where problems exist and where additional research and resources must be directed. In addition to the findings about marijuana, we look forward to learning more about alcohol disorders indeed, about other mental health disorders, as well from the same data set," explains Dr. Ting-Kai Li, Director, NIAAA.
"The results of our study show that use of marijuana remained stable in 2001-2002 compared to 1991-1992; however, there were significant increases in marijuana abuse or dependence, especially in certain minority subgroups," says Dr. Compton. "Overall, marijuana abuse or dependence rose by 22 percent from 1991-1992 to 2001-2002. This means that there were approximately 800,000 more adults in the United States with marijuana abuse or dependence in 2001-2002. Furthermore, marijuana abuse or dependence was more common among Whites than among minorities in 1991-1992, but by 2001-2002 the differences in abuse and dependence rates among the different ethnic groups had narrowed considerably. This change was due to increases of 224 percent among young African-American men and women aged 18-29, and 148 percent among young Hispanic men aged 18-29."
The increase in potency of marijuana over the last decade may be partly responsible for the drug's increased abuse and dependence, particularly since marijuana use patterns have not changed over this period. However, no single factor can account entirely for the increases seen in minority populations, the authors report. Numerous cultural, psychosocial, economic, and lifestyle factors likely play roles.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at http://www.drugabuse.gov.
[Source: National Institutes of Health]