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Marijuana’s mainstream moment may bring other problems

It’s hard to think of another substance that’s gone from illicit to acceptable as quickly as marijuana has. No longer something purchased clandestinely behind a minimart, marijuana sales are now operated openly. According to cannabis industry investment firm ArcView Group, the market for legal pot in the U.S. grew to $2.7 billion in 2014, a 74 percent increase from the previous year.

What’s more, marijuana has a pretty good public image, and it’s not entirely undeserved. Compared to nicotine and alcohol – both perfectly legal drugs to purchase and consume – marijuana often comes out looking better. A study published in the journal “Scientific Reports” found alcohol was the riskiest drug to use, followed by heroin and cocaine. Marijuana came dead last.

Along with the changing public view comes popularity. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, says 22.2 million people aged 12 and up used marijuana during the past month in 2014. Additionally, 2.6 million people in the same age group reported using marijuana for the first time in the previous 12 months.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t any downsides to using marijuana. However odd it may sound on the surface, marijuana use disorders – which include addiction and withdrawal symptoms – are real conditions. A recent study showed that the problem is growing right along with pot’s popularity.

Disorders on the rise

A new study put together by researchers from Columbia University and the National Institutes of Health found a large increase of both marijuana users and cannabis use disorder. Their data shows 2.5 percent of adults – nearly 6 million people – experienced the disorder in the past year.

Among other findings, the study found most people with a cannabis use disorder don’t receive treatment, with only 14 percent of people with a lifetime disorder undergoing treatment. Also, cannabis use disorders are twice as common among men as women, and younger people were at higher risk for it.

In addition to interviewing over 36,000 American adults about their alcohol, drug and mental health conditions, the researchers also examined data collected in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s most recent survey. The new study is the first national survey to use the diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The DSM-5 lists cannabis use disorder along with other substance abuse disorders. In order to be diagnosed with the disorder, an individual has to have at least two of 11 symptoms, which include craving, withdrawal, and negative effects on life. Cannabis-use disorder is also graded on a scale of severity based on how many symptoms an individual has.

Speaking to Columbia University Medical Center’s news service, lead study author Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., said, “An increasing number of American adults do not perceive marijuana use as harmful. While some can use marijuana without harms, other users do experience negative consequences, which can include mental and physical problems, and impaired functioning.”

Any substance disorder needs treatment

Any mood-altering substance, no matter its popularity or legality, has the potential to be abused. Sovereign Health of Texas provides effective, scientific treatment for substance abuse. Our staff of experts will create a treatment program tailored to their clients’ specific needs, ensuring the best possible chance at recovery. Please call our 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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