Analysis: Criminal Justice Referrals Driving Youth Marijuana Treatment Admissions

arrestedOver half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this same period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

Among those in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had use cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

“Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder’ by young people have declined significantly.

An abstract of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” is online here. My commentary about the data, “Blowing the lid off the marijuana treatment racket,” appears on Alternet.org here.

Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use By Young People Following Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status

no_marijuanaYet another study has once again affirmed that the regulation of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is not associated with increases in problematic cannabis use by young people.

Writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, federal investigators from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration evaluated marijuana use rates among young people (ages 12 to 17) between the years 2002 and 2014.

Researchers reported that the prevalence of past-year cannabis use by youth fell 17 percent during this time period. The prevalence of problematic use by young people fell by 25 percent – with a downward trend starting in 2011.

“In the United States, compared to 2002, even after adjusting for covariates, cannabis use decreased among youth during 2005-2014, and cannabis use disorder declined among youth cannabis users during 2013-2014,” authors concluded.

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting no uptick in youth marijuana use or abuse following the enactment of marijuana regulation, including those here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

An abstract of the study, “Cannabis use and cannabis use disorders in the United States, 2002-2014,” appears online here.

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.

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