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Oddly, the latest scientific survey and subsequent figures on the use of marijuana in the United States comes from an analysis documented in a UK journal called The Lancet, in which 596,500 Americans over the age of 18 took part in the survey. The survey was conducted over a two years period from 2012 through 2014, in which the Psychiatry division of the journal looked at why marijuana use is on the rise, and if the growing rate of ‘acceptance’ is due to the legalization in certain large states or if it is due to the growing perception of the relative safety of this substance. Some of the criteria and results are discussed below.

Study Does Not Indicate Increased Dependence

According to the study, it is unclear whether or not legalization in key states had anything to do with the increased use of cannabis. There is no evidence to indicate any growing dependence or abuse of the ‘drug.’ It does suggest continued monitoring with this as a focus, but it is felt that even with larger numbers of individuals using marijuana in one form or another from smoking to ingesting edibles, there is no indication that dependence is an issue. Also, the study did not take teens or anyone under the age of 18 into consideration, nor did the study discuss the use of marijuana as it relates to severe psychiatric disorders and their treatments.

Various Levels of Exposure

The study was specifically aimed at the preponderance of new users as opposed to those who have over a longer period of time been active consumers of medical marijuana and related products such as CBD oil, and those who have a history of recreational marijuana use. The survey that The Lancet sought to analyze was actually conducted by the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health. By 2014 there was a reported growth in those who had used marijuana within the previous year that was up to 13.3% at the conclusion of the survey from 10.4% twelve years previously in 2002. Adults who were ‘first time’ users were at 7% in 2002 but by 2014 that number rose to 1.1% and daily use rose from 1.9% in 2002 to 3.5% in 2014.

No Perceived Risk Is Responsible for the Rise in Active Users

At the conclusion of the report, legalization seemed not to be a reason for the increasing number of those who use cannabis. What appears to be the underlying reason for growing use of marijuana is the fact that there is little perceived risk involved in a drug that is becoming more acceptable as an alternative form of medicine for such things as the treatment of cancer. However, the study does say that there are those who have become abusers or dependent on THC, even though that number is just at 1.5% - the least addictive of all psychoactive recreational drugs. 

As more states are putting initiatives on the ballots to allow the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana, there will be a greater need for studies, but at the moment the only thing that shows a change is the increase in number of users. There is nothing to link dependence is at an increased risk but there is everything to suggest that active users are on the rise with no growing numbers accepting potential uses outside traditional medicine.


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