Rates of marijuana use, heavy use, and cannabis use disorder depend on where you live

Adult marijuana use rose significantly in states that passed loosely regulated medical marijuana laws (MMLs) according to a new study. The highest increases were reported among adults ages 26 and over. Little change was found in past-month marijuana use among adolescents or young adults between the ages 18 and 25.

Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use Following Passage Of Medical Marijuana Laws

no_marijuanaThe enactment of medical marijuana laws is not associated with increased rates of problematic cannabis use, according to data published online in the journal Addiction.

Columbia University investigators assessed cannabis use trends in states in the years following the passage of medicalization. They reported “no significant change in the prevalence of past-month marijuana use among adolescents or young adults (those ages 18 to 25)” following legalization. They also found no evidence of increased cannabis abuse or dependence by either young people or adults. States with largely unregulated medical programs were associated with increased self-reported use by adults age 26 and older, but states with stricter programs were not.

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting no uptick in youth marijuana use or abuse following medical marijuana regulation, including those here, here, here, here, here, and here. The findings contradict those of a recent, widely publicized paper in JAMA Psychiatry which speculated that medical marijuana laws may increase the prevalence of cannabis use disorder among adults.

An abstract of the study, “Loose regulation of medical marijuana programs associated with higher rates of adult marijuana use but not cannabis use disorder,” is online here.

Delaying marijuana smoking to age 17 cuts risks to teens’ brains, new study suggests

Adolescents who smoke marijuana as early as 14 do worse by 20 points on some cognitive tests and drop out of school at a higher rate than non-smokers. But if they hold off until age 17, they’re less at risk.

Marijuana Use Continues Rapid Decline Among Younger Teens

no_marijuanaSelf-reported marijuana use continues to fall among younger teens, according to federally commissioned, nationwide survey data compiled by the University of Michigan.

Results from the 2016 edition of the Monitoring the Future survey find that marijuana use by 8th-graders and 10th-graders is declining year by year. Further, a greater percentage of younger teens now say that their ability to obtain marijuana is more difficult than ever before.

Marijuana use patterns among 12th-graders have held steady since 2011, the survey reported.

Approximately 50,000 students are surveyed annually as part of the University of Michigan study.

Since the mid-1990s, self-reported lifetime use of cannabis has fallen 44 percent among 8th-graders, 30 percent among 10th-graders, and ten percent among 12th-graders. Twenty-nine states have legalized the medical use of cannabis, and eight of those states have also regulated the adult use of marijuana, since that time.

Overall, teens’ self-reported use of alcohol and/or any illicit substance aside from marijuana is at a historic low.

Previous federally funded surveys by the US Centers for Disease Control and others have similarly reported that changes in statewide marijuana laws are not associated with rising levels of youth use.

N-acetylcysteine shows early promise in reducing alcohol use in marijuana-dependent teens

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) reduced alcohol use in a small cohort of marijuana-dependent adolescents who exhibited reductions in marijuana use, report researchers. In this secondary analysis of data from an earlier trial of NAC in marijuana-dependent adolescents, researchers show that reduced marijuana use was associated with reductions in alcohol consumption in the NAC-treated, but not placebo-treated teens.

Study: Marijuana Retailers Not Selling To Youth

mj_salesAge restrictions in legal marijuana states are effectively keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors, according to newly published data in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs.

A team of investigators from California, Colorado, and New Mexico assessed whether licensed retail cannabis facilities would sell to pseudo-underage buyers who failed to show proof of age.

Authors reported, “Compliance with laws restricting marijuana sales to individuals age 21 years or older with a valid ID was extremely high and possibly higher than compliance with restrictions on alcohol sales.”

They concluded, “The retail market at present may not be a direct source of marijuana for underage individuals.”

Similar assessments of facilities in other jurisdictions have also shown that the overwhelming majority of marijuana retailers refuse sales to apparent minors.

A pair of studies published earlier this week from Columbia University researchers reported that changes in marijuana’s legal status are “not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”

An abstract of the study, “Pseudo-Underage Assessment of Compliance With Identification Regulations at Retail Marijuana Outlets in Colorado,” appears here.

Studies: Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status Not Associated With Increased Use By Young People

no_marijuanaChanges in marijuana’s legal status under state law is not associated with increased cannabis use or with its perceived availability by young people, according to pair of recently published studies.

In the first study, published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, researchers at Columbia University in New York surveyed the marijuana use habits of a national sampling of 1,310 adolescents between the years 2013 and 2015. Investigators assessed whether respondents from states with liberalized cannabis policies were more likely to acknowledge having consumed cannabis compared to those residing in jurisdictions where the substance remains criminally prohibited.

Authors reported that the study’s findings “failed to show a relationship between adolescentsuse of marijuana and state laws regarding marijuana use.” … [They] suggest that eased sanctions on adult marijuana use are not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”

In the second study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of investigators from Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, and Boston University examined the relationship between medical cannabis laws and the prevalence of marijuana availability and use by both adolescents and by those age 26 or older. Authors reported no changes over a nine-year period (2004 to 2013) with regard to the past-month prevalence of marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 or by those between the ages of 18 and 25. Those age 25 and younger also experienced no change in their perception of marijuana’s availability. By contrast, self-reported marijuana use and availability increased among adults age 26 or older over this same time period.

The conclusions are similar to those of numerous separate studies reporting that changes in marijuana’s legal status are not associated with any uptick in teens’ use of the substance, such as those here, here, here, and here.

Abstracts of the two studies, “Is the Legalization of Marijuana Associated With Its Use by Adolescents?” and “State-level medical marijuana laws, marijuana use and perceived availability of marijuana among the general U.S. population,” appear online here and here.

CDC: Young People Say Marijuana Is Becoming Less Available

no_marijuanaProhibitionists often claim that legalizing and regulating marijuana will increase youth access to the plant. But newly released federal data says just the opposite.

Fewer young people are reporting that marijuana is ‘easy’ to obtain, according to an analysis released this week by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Investigators from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the CDC evaluated annual data compiled by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the years 2002 to 2014. Researchers reported that the percentage of respondents aged 12 to 17 years who perceived marijuana to be “fairly easy or very easy to obtain” fell by 13 percent during this time period. Among those ages 18 to 25, marijuana’s perceived availability decreased by three percent.

Researchers further reported that “since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.

By contrast, authors reported an uptick in use among adults. However, they acknowledged that this increase in adult marijuana consumption has not been associated with a parallel increase in problematic use. There has been “steady decreases in the prevalence of marijuana dependence and abuse among adult marijuana users since 2002,” the study found. Those adults experiencing the greatest percentage increase in marijuana use during the study period were respondents over the age of 55.

A separate analysis of the data published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry similarly acknowledged no observed increase in marijuana use disorders. A previous assessment of marijuana use patterns since 2002, published earlier this year in JAMA Psychiatry, also reported a decline in the percentage of adults reporting problems related to their marijuana use.

Full text of the CDC study, “National estimates of marijuana use and related indicators – National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2002-2014,” appears online here.

Adolescent alcohol, marijuana use leads to poor academic performance, health problems

Adolescents who use both marijuana and alcohol during middle school and high school are more likely to have poor academic performance and mental health during high school, according to a new study that followed a group of students over a seven-year period. However, the study found marijuana use was predictive of poorer functioning across more areas, including lower academic functioning, being less prepared for school, more delinquent behavior and poorer mental health.

Trauma in childhood linked to drug use in adolescence

Latest research from a national sample of almost 10,000 US adolescents found psychological trauma, especially abuse and domestic violence before age 11, can increase the likelihood of experimentation with drugs in adolescence, independent of a history of mental illness. This is the first study to document these associations in an American national sample of adolescents.

Legalization of marijuana in Washington had no effect on teens’ access to drug

Despite concerns that legalizing marijuana use for adults would make it easier for adolescents to get ahold of it, a new study in Washington State shows that teens find it no easier now than before the law was passed in 2012.

Parents can spot teen drug use and take steps to prevent it

Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) June 30, 2010

Summer, with its promise of free time and relaxed adult supervision, can present prime opportunities for adolescents and teenagers to use alcohol or other drugs. Consider the facts:

Binge eating, overeating may be associated with initiating use of marijuana, other drugs

Overeating and binge eating may be associated with initiating use of marijuana and other drugs in a study of adolescents and young adults.

Latest Media Buzz Regarding Pot’s Potential Impact On IQ Misses The Bigger Issue

The mainstream press has been abuzz in recent days regarding the findings of a recent study suggesting that early-onset, persistent cannabis exposure by those under age 18 could potentially pose adverse effects on intelligence quotient.

Yet, absent from the media’s discussion of the study — a discussion that has even included some fairly critical reviews of the study’s methodology (See here and here for just two examples.) — is any talk of the role that marijuana prohibition plays in inadvertently steering young people toward cannabis, an issue I address in depth in a column published today and excerpted below:

Pot & IQ: A Flawed Debate
via hightimes.com

[excerpt] Even if one is to accept the study’s findings at face value, it’s hard to see how concerns regarding the potential impact of cannabis on the developing adolescent brain are any way a persuasive argument in support of present day marijuana prohibition. After all, virtually no one wants kids as young as 12 or 13 years of age consuming a mood-altering substance like cannabis. Yet, under cannabis criminalization – a policy that prohibits its use for people of all ages and compels all consumers to acquire the product on the black market instead of from licensed businesses – teens are more likely to have easy access to pot, not less.

… Specifically, a June 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control reported that more teens are smoking pot than cigarettes.

Not so coincidentally, teens’ declining use of cigarettes has run parallel to increased state and federal efforts to penalize those licensed businesses that improperly sell to minors and to educate the public about the health risks associated with tobacco. Ditto for booze.

In short, it’s legalization, regulation, and public education – coupled with the imposition and enforcement of appropriate age restrictions – that most effectively keeps mind-altering substances out of the hands of children and reduces the likelihood of their abuse.

Isn’t it about time we took this same approach for pot?

You can read the full essay and comment on it here.

Adolescents in substance abuse treatment report using someone else’s medical marijuana

Diverted medical marijuana use among adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse is very common, according to new research. Study participants from two adolescent substance abuse treatment programs in the Denver metropolitan area were asked questions about their medical marijuana use. 121 of 164 adolescents (73.8%) reported using medical marijuana that had been recommended for someone else, also known as diverted medical marijuana, a median of 50 times.

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