A study published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence appears to show a decrease in the number of daily cannabis users diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder (CUD).
According to the document, “the prevalence of cannabis use disorders decreased significantly among all age populations reporting daily or almost daily cannabis use between 2002 and 2016. Also,the prevalence of cannabis dependence decreased among adolescents and young adults and was stable only among adults aged 26 and over who reported using cannabis daily or almost daily.”
In fact,recent studies have had mixed results on the prevalence of problematic cannabis use, a diagnosis that includes misuse and/or dependence, over the past two decades. Because people who use cannabis almost every day are the most vulnerable to problematic use problems, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have been working to better understand the health of this group.
The authors of the study used data from the national drug use and health surveys for the period 2002-2016. The final sample, consisting of 22,651 people, included participants aged 12 years and older who reported using cannabis at least 300 days in the past year.
In order to measure problematic cannabis use, the authors used the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition, DSM-IV), such as :
- Spending a significant amount of time for one month obtaining, using or overcoming the effects of cannabis
- The impossibility of setting limits
- The inability to reduce cannabis use
- Recurrent consumption that prevents the fulfillment of obligations
- Consumption that continues despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems
Also,other factors considered in the study included whether participants perceived a need for mental health treatment, whether a doctor indicated that they had other health problems, and whether or not they had driven under the influence of illicit drugs with or without alcohol.
During the study period, the authors found that the prevalence of CUD decreased across their sample in all age groups: for adolescents aged 12 to 17, the rate decreased by 26.8%; for 18-25 year-olds, 29.7%; and for adults aged 26 and over, by 37.5%.
“Among those who had consumed cannabis daily or almost daily in the past year, the prevalence of cannabis abuse has decreased in all age groups, with reductions observed for all cases of individual abuse among adolescents and young adults,” the study says. “The prevalence of cannabis dependence has also declined among adolescents and young adults, but not among adults 26 years of age and older. Reductions in most elements of DSM-IV dependence were observed in young adults, while reductions were observed in only a few adolescents and older adults. »
Therefore, the researchers offer several possible explanations for this reduction in problematic consumption, including the influence of different legalizations.
Firstly, the new national policy environment on cannabis, with 33 states legalizing medical use and 10 states allowing recreational use of cannabis, may have played a role in reducing the stigma and risk perception associated with cannabis use,” according to Silvia Martins, one of the study’s authors. “Second, increasing legalization may also be associated with changes in social attitudes, which reduces the number of conflicts with family and friends about cannabis use. »
Consequently, according to the document, “this could explain reductions in the element “Continued use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems”, which reflects the difficulties of interaction with others due to cannabis use. »
It is also possible that a “segment of the overall healthier population” may begin to consume more cannabis because of lawful access, which “may have diluted the prevalence of cannabis abuse/addiction over time”. They could use “less potent” cannabis. or in lower daily amounts, the researchers note. Also, respondents are now less afraid to admit in a federal survey that they frequently use cannabis.
Finally, Martins said, the results of the study “would contradict the predominant assumption that the prevalence of CUD DSM-IV would be stable or increase among those who regularly use cannabis”.