Marijuana use disorder is common and often untreated

Survey shows marijuana use disorder linked to substance use/mental disorders and disability.

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 the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
(NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health. 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.

report of the study, led by Bridget Grant, Ph.D., of the NIAAA
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry, appears online today in the
American Journal of Psychiatry.

“…Marijuana use can lead to harmful consequences for individuals and society.”
 —George F. Koob, Ph.D., Director, NIAAA

“The new analysis complements previous population-level studies by
Dr. Grant’s group that show that marijuana use can lead to harmful
consequences for individuals and society,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D.,
director of NIAAA.

In a recent report,
Dr. 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 new study analyzed data about
marijuana use that were collected in the 2012-2013 wave of NIAAA’s
National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions
(NESARC), the largest study ever conducted on the co-occurrence of
alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions.

The researchers interviewed more than 36,000 U.S. adults about
alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions. Notably, the
current study applies diagnostic criteria for marijuana use disorder
from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to
the NESARC data.

In DSM-5, marijuana dependence and abuse are combined
into a single disorder. 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.

Consistent with previous findings, the new data showed that marijuana
use disorder is about twice as common among men than women, and that
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.

Also in keeping with previous
findings, the new study found that past-year and lifetime marijuana use
disorders were strongly and consistently associated with other substance
use and mental health disorders.

Dr. Grant and her colleagues also reported that people with marijuana
use disorder, particularly those with severe forms of the disorder,
experience considerable mental disability. They note that previous
studies have found that such disabilities persist even after remission
of marijuana use disorder. The researchers also report that only about 7
percent of people with past-year marijuana use disorder receive any
marijuana-specific treatment, compared with slightly less than 14
percent of people with lifetime marijuana use disorder.

“These findings demonstrate that people with marijuana use disorder
are vulnerable to other mental health disorders,” said Nora D. Volkow,
M.D., 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.”

The study authors note the urgency of identifying and implementing
effective prevention and treatment for marijuana use disorder. And with
ongoing changes in the drug’s legal status at the state level and a
shift in beliefs about the risks associated with its use, they also note
that public education about the dangers associated with marijuana use
will be increasingly important to address public beliefs that marijuana
use is harmless.

As marijuana and alcohol are frequently used together, more research
is also needed to understand the effects of combined use. Studies
suggest that using marijuana and alcohol together impairs driving more than either substance alone and that alcohol use may increase the absorption of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

In June 2015, NIAAA published a study based on NESARC data showing
that alcohol use disorder (AUD) was on the rise in the U.S. over the
last decade. The results showed that nearly
one-third of adults in the United States have an AUD at some time in
their lives, but only about 20 percent seek AUD treatment

About the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of
the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for
conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences,
prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol
problems. NIAAA funds the National Consortium on Alcohol and
Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) to determine the effects of
problematic alcohol use on the developing adolescent brain and examine
brain characteristics that predict alcohol use disorder. NIAAA also
disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic
audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are
available at

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the
National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health
aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large
variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance
addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and
information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at,
which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order
publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research
dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH FREE or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to [email protected] (link sends e-mail). Online ordering is available at NIDA’s media guide can be found at, and its easy-to-read website can be found at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting
basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is
investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare
diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
“Marijuana use disorder is common and often untreated” is replublished article