NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Marijuana Use Disorder Is Common, Often Untreated

Marijuana use disorder is common in the United States, is often associated with other substance use disorders, behavioral problems and disability and goes largely untreated, according to a new study conducted by NIAAA. The analysis found that 2.5 percent of adults—nearly 6 million people—experienced marijuana use disorder in the past year, while 6.3 percent had met the diagnostic criteria for the disorder at some point in their lives. 

A report of the study, led by Dr. Bridget Grant of NIAAA’s Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry, appeared online Mar. 4 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Grant and her team found that the percentage of Americans who reported using marijuana in the past year more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, and the increase in marijuana use disorders during that time was nearly as large. 

The researchers interviewed more than 36,000 U.S. adults about alcohol use, drug use and related psychiatric conditions. To be diagnosed with the disorder, individuals must meet at least two of 11 symptoms that assess craving, withdrawal, lack of control and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities. Severity of the disorder is rated as mild, moderate or severe depending on the number of symptoms met.

Marijuana use disorder is about twice as common among men than women; younger age groups are much more likely to experience the disorder than people age 45 and over. The risk for onset of the disorder was found to peak during late adolescence and among people in their early 20s, with remission occurring within 3 to 4 years. The study also found that past-year and lifetime marijuana use disorders were strongly and consistently associated with other substance use and mental health disorders.

“These findings demonstrate that people with marijuana use disorder are vulnerable to other mental health disorders,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, which contributed funding to the study. “The study emphasizes the need for such individuals to receive help through evidence-based treatments that address these co-occurring conditions.”


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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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