An explosive study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics and conducted by prominent researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that teenage marijuana users (aged 12-17) have double the prevalence of a use disorder (addiction) than nicotine, alcohol, and, in most categories of users, even prescription drug misusers. The addiction rate was as high as 20% among those who had used more than three years, and double the rate of alcohol in all categories.
“Knowing how potent today’s marijuana is, this study shouldn’t be a complete shock – but given today’s misinformed views, it is a bombshell,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “It was always thought that drugs like cigarettes had a far greater prevalence for use disorder than marijuana, but this study finds the prevalence of marijuana use disorder among teens is at the top. This speaks volumes about the need to educate young people on the harms of marijuana use and halt the normalization and commercialization of its use.”
Marijuana addiction rates among lifetime users was 10.7% among those who used less than a year; 14.6% among those who used 1-2 years; 16.8% among those who used 2-3 years; and 20.1% among those who used more than three years. Out of twenty categories of users across five non-marijuana drugs, the only addiction rate that comes close is the 11% rate among teenage prescription drug misusers who used less than a year. Marijuana addiction rates were higher than all prescription drug misusers for those who used more than a year.
The release of this study comes at a crucial time, as lawmakers in five states (New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maryland, Wyoming, and North Dakota) have all rejected efforts to legalize the substance in recent days. However, lawmakers in New York and New Mexico will vote within days of this study’s publication on bills to commercialize marijuana and essentially endorse its use.