Marijuana Abuse in America

Marijuana Abuse in America

Marijuana is the nation’s most commonly used illicit drug. More than 83 million Americans (37 percent) age 12 and older have tried marijuana at least once, according to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). The most used illegal drug in the United States is marijuana. Marijuana has maintained its popularity for decades as the number one illicit drug in America. Marijuana is often considered “safe,” and is also considered a “gateway drug” because of the perception by many of its users that it is mostly harmless. A gateway drug means that it usually opens the door for abusers to try other more powerful drugs in order to achieve a “euphoric high.” However, marijuana is a mind altering substance and it does have very real and lasting effects on the body.

Marijuana Use in America

An estimated 2.4 million Americans used marijuana for the first time in 2000. The annual number of new marijuana users has varied considerably since 1965 when there were an estimated 0.6 million new users. The number of new marijuana users reached a peak in 1976 and 1977 at around 3.2 million. Between 1990 and 1996, the estimated number of new users increased from 1.4 million to 2.5 million and has remained at this level.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. It is used by 76 percent of current illicit drug users. Approximately 59 percent of current illicit drug users consumed only marijuana, 17 percent used marijuana and another illicit drug, and the remaining 24 percent used an illicit drug but not marijuana in the past month. Therefore, about 41 percent of current illicit drug users in 2000 (an estimated 5.7 million Americans) use illicit drugs other than marijuana and hashish, with or without using marijuana as well. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population above the age of 12 has used marijuana at some point. That is about 97.8 million Americans. Marijuana is most popular among those between the ages of 18 and 25, with 16.3 percent of them using marijuana in the past month. Nearly everyone who tries marijuana for the first time, no matter their age, gets it from a friend.

Although its use is declining overall, marijuana has retained its popularity through decades. Marijuana is so popular (39.8 percent of the U.S. population has tried marijuana at least once) in part because it is regarded as a relatively “safe” drug. However, efforts to educate youth about marijuana substance abuse may be contributing to its slight decline.

US Policy on Drugs

Nonetheless, the U.S. prison population is six to 10 times as high as most Western European nations. Only second to Russia, the United States rate of incarceration is relatively high due to the drug war in our nation. More than 734,000 people saw jail time in this country for marijuana-related offenses alone in 2000.

The war on drugs in America is held with high emphasis on arresting people for smoking marijuana. Marijuana charges were pressed on nearly 5.9 million Americans arrested since 1990, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. In 2000, state and local law enforcement arrested 734,498 people for marijuana violations. This is an increase of 800 percent since 1980, and is the highest ever recorded by the FBI. (See marijuana names for street slang.)

Simple possession has been the case for a majority of arrests since 2000. This was the case in the 1990s also. That’s 88 percent of Americans being charged with marijuana possession. The remaining 12 percent (88,456 Americans) were for “sale/manufacture,” an FBI category which includes marijuana grown for personal use or purely medical purposes. These new FBI statistics indicate that one marijuana smoker is arrested every 45 seconds in America. In fact, the combined number of arrests for violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault was far LESS than the total number of marijuana arrests for 2000.

The shocking truth of these statistics is that, like most Americans, people who smoke marijuana also pay taxes, love and support their families, and work hard to make a better life for their children. Then the results of their recreational habit have them arrested, jailed and treated like criminals solely because of their drug of choice. The sad result is that state agencies must frequently step in and declare children of marijuana smokers to be “in danger,” and many children are then placed into foster homes. This causes enormous pain, suffering and financial hardship for millions of American families. It also engenders distrust and disrespect for the law and for the criminal justice system overall.

Young Adults and Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana use is most common among young adults aged 18 to 25 (more than 16 percent have used marijuana in the last month). According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in this age group, marijuana is most popular with college students. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control report that 30.2 percent of college students have used marijuana in the past year.

It is worth noting that marijuana use is trending down in this segment of the population. Last year college student use is down from 33.3 percent in 2005. And young adults as a whole (this number includes college students) report a drop from 28.2 percent last year use to 27.7 percent.

Marijuana Help

Although information on marijuana may seem elusive because many say the effects aren’t as powerful as other illegal drugs, it is important to realize it does have addictive effects. If you or someone you know is using or is addicted to marijuana and requires marijuana drug treatment please contact our toll free number at (877) 714-1320.