Are More Young People Becoming Addicted to Marijuana?

Are More Young People Becoming Addicted to Marijuana?

Marijuana, the dried green flower of cannabis plants, contains the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that binds to neural cannabinoid receptors and produces a euphoric high. Though some states legalized medical and recreational use, marijuana – like alcohol and many pharmaceutical drugs – has the potential for addiction and physical dependence. The Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology journal in 1994 argued that 9% of marijuana users become dependent, and a 28-day abstinence study published in the same journal in 2000 found that withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, physical tension and mood changes. Marijuana has always been popular among young people, but its regular use is up slightly from the previously decade, which also increases the number of potential addictions.

Marijuana Use Statistics

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) produces various national reports about drug use and treatment for adults aged 12 and older, and the reports include data on marijuana use trends. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has data on usage, including the following:

  • 6% of current illicit drug users consume marijuana making it the most popular drug
  • 8 million people were identified as current (past-month) marijuana users in 2013
  • The percentage of current users in 2013 (7.5%) was similar to that of 2012 (7.3%)

The overall usage rate is higher than in the previous decade when, between 2008 and 2008, the percentage never climbed above 6.2%. In 2009, however, the rate jumped to 6.7% and steadily increased each year afterwards. In 2013, teens aged 16 and 17 reported 14.2% past-month use, while adults aged 18 to 25 reported 19.1% use, up from 16.6% in 2008 and 17% in 2002.

Marijuana use in general has increased and the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) report provides data on addiction treatment admissions between 2002 and 2012. The data for marijuana addiction admissions included the following:

  • 5% of admissions in 2012 reported marijuana as the primary substance of abuse
  • The rate declined in recent years from 18.2% in 2009, 18.6% in 2010 and 18.3% in 2011
  • The rate was lower still in the previous decade, e.g., 15.3% in 2002 and 16% in 2008
  • The average age for admissions with marijuana as the primary drug was 25
  • The rate was 76%, however, for admissions between the ages of 12 and 17

While the admission rates are high, the majority of admissions are by referral through the criminal justice system, and marijuana admissions are less likely to be a self-referral than all other admissions combined. In other words, many of the marijuana addiction patients entered treatment as part of an alternative sentencing agreement. The decline in the admissions rate is possibly tied to increased state-level legalization, but the high rates of overall use and treatment show that marijuana addiction remains a prominent issue.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Young people are exposed to marijuana through popular culture, the media, legalization campaigns and peer use, and many people celebrate its use and cannabis culture in general. Opinions certainly differ about marijuana, but a person does not need to demonize the drug to acknowledge that marijuana addiction is a real neurobiological disease best treated with professional care. Rehab centers customize treatment plans for each individual patient, but potential services include integrated mental health care, relapse-prevention strategies, life skills tools and cognitive behavioral and motivational therapies.

If you have questions about addiction or treatment, our admissions coordinators can help any time of day or night; we’re here 24 hours a day. We can discuss warning signs, interventions, treatment options and facilities, and we can check health insurance policies for rehab benefits. Please call our toll-free helpline now.