Study Examines Increasing Rate of Marijuana-Use Disorder

Even as efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois continue, many thousands of people are estimated to use the drug on at least a casual basis. In fact, marijuana is the most frequently-used illegal drug in the United States. While that in and of itself may not be particularly surprising, recent estimates indicate that some 22 million Americans over the age of 12 use marijuana.

Many proponents of decriminalized or legalized marijuana believe the risks associated with the drug are lower than even those presented by alcohol use, including what they believe to a non-existent risk of chemical dependency. Addiction, it would seem, can take many forms, and according to study released this summer, there definitely seems to be some type of addictive quality to using the drug, at least for certain.

Marijuana-Use Disorder

A collaborative effort between researchers at Columbia University, National Institutes of Health, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute found that marijuana use has more than doubled in the last decade, as public opinion has changed dramatically. A little over ten years ago, about 4.1 percent of Americans reported using marijuana in the last year. Today, the number is about 9.5 percent. Correspondingly, marijuana-use disorder has also increased, although the incidence rate among users has remained roughly the same.

Marijuana-use disorder is a diagnosis recognized in the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The disorder is characterized by series of symptoms and behaviors that would normally be related to dependence or abuse of the drug. While marijuana may not be chemically addictive, many become addicted to the feelings and security using the drug can offer. Indications of marijuana-use disorder include:

  • Increased tolerance, requiring more of the drug to achieve the same effect;
  • Irritability, depression, and trouble sleeping when not using;
  • Strong, persistent desire to stop or cut down, but failing to do so;
  • Spending large amounts of time getting, using, or recovering from using marijuana;
  • Sacrificing other life activities in favor of using; and
  • Continuing to use despite the use of the drug causing problems.

According to the study, approximately three out of ten marijuana users experience marijuana-use disorder, though very few have actually been diagnosed. The authors of the study advocate increased “public education about the potential harms in marijuana use, including the risk for addiction.” When risks exist, they continued, both the public and lawmakers need to know about them.

Get the Help You Need

If you have concerns regarding marijuana-use disorder, speak with a medical or mental health professional for advice and options on possible treatment. If you are facing criminal charges related to possession or use of marijuana, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, will fight to protect your rights and future no matter how difficult your situation may seem. Call us today for a free consultation.

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