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78+ Marijuana Addiction Statistics & Facts

Marijuana use is prevalent in the United States, with almost half of Americans reporting trying it at least once in their lifetime. While some research suggests that marijuana may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, it still poses potential risks to mental health and addiction.

September 10, 2023

Marijuana is a popular drug that is used by millions of people around the world. However, it is also a highly addictive drug that can have serious consequences for those who use it. In this article, we will explore the latest marijuana addiction statistics and discuss the impact of this drug on society.

Key Marijuana Addiction Statistics

  1. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 9% of people who use marijuana will become addicted to it. This number increases to 17% for those who start using it in their teens, and 25-50% for those who use it daily.
  2. In 2019, over 4 million people in the United States met the criteria for a marijuana use disorder. This represents a significant increase from previous years.
  3. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with over 43 million people reporting past-year use in 2019.
  4. The potency of marijuana has increased significantly over the past few decades. In 1995, the average THC content of marijuana was around 4%. By 2014, it had risen to 12%.
  5. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), marijuana use is most common among young adults aged 18-25.
  6. Marijuana use is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including respiratory problems, mental health issues, and impaired driving.
  7. In states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use, there has been an increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
  8. Marijuana use during pregnancy can have serious consequences for the developing fetus, including low birth weight and developmental delays.
  9. Marijuana use is linked to an increased risk of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
  10. The use of synthetic cannabinoids, which are often marketed as "legal" alternatives to marijuana, has been associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including seizures, kidney damage, and even death.
Source: Marijuana Use in the United States

How Popular is Marijuana?

  • In 2021, a Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. This is a significant increase from just a decade ago when only 44% supported legalization.
  • A survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that in 2019, 12.5% of people aged 12 or older reported using marijuana in the past month.
  • According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance globally, with an estimated 192 million users worldwide.

Marijuana Use Around the World

Country Estimated Marijuana Use
Canada 5.4 million people (15% of population aged 15+)
Europe Approximately one in five adults (aged 15-64) have used cannabis at some point in their lifetime
Australia 11.6% of people aged over 14 years had used cannabis in the past year
United States 43.5 million people aged 12 or older had used marijuana in the past year
Uruguay 147,000 people (4.9% of population) used cannabis in the past month
Jamaica 17.1% of Jamaicans aged 15-64 reported using cannabis in their lifetime
  • In 2020, an estimated 5.4 million people in Canada reported using marijuana in the past year. This represents approximately 15% of the population aged 15 years and older.
  • According to a survey conducted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in 2019, approximately one in five adults (aged 15-64) in Europe have used cannabis at some point in their lifetime.
  • In Australia, a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that 11.6% of people aged over 14 years had used cannabis in the past year.
  • In the United States, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 43.5 million people aged 12 or older had used marijuana in the past year.
  • In Uruguay, which legalized recreational use of cannabis in 2013, a survey conducted by the National Drug Board found that approximately 147,000 people (or 4.9% of the population) used cannabis in the past month.
  • In Jamaica, where cannabis has been decriminalized since 2015, a study conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse found that approximately 17.1% of Jamaicans aged 15-64 reported using cannabis in their lifetime.

Marijuana Use in United States

  • In 2019, approximately 49% of Americans reported having tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
  • Among adults aged 26 or older, the rate of past-year marijuana use has increased significantly in recent years. In 2002, only 5.1% of adults in this age group reported using marijuana in the past year. By 2019, this number had risen to 12.6%.
  • The states with the highest rates of past-month marijuana use among people aged 18 or older are Colorado (21.3%), Vermont (20.8%), and Oregon (19.6%). The states with the lowest rates are Alabama (5.2%), Tennessee (5.6%), and Kansas (5.7%).
  • According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, roughly two-thirds of Americans believe that alcohol is more harmful to a person's health than marijuana.
  • A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that states with legalized medical marijuana saw a decrease in opioid prescriptions for Medicaid patients compared to states where medical marijuana remained illegal.

Marijuana Use by State in United States

State Past-Month Marijuana Use
(2019, % of people aged 12+)
Total Number of Past-Year Users
(2019)
Colorado 20.2% N/A*
Vermont 19.6% N/A*
Oregon 18.9% N/A*
Alaska 17.3% N/A*
Maine 16.0% N/A*
Massachusetts 15.1% N/A*
California N/A* Over 6 million
Alabama 5.4% N/A*
Tennessee 5.7% N/A*
Mississippi 6.0% N/A*
  • In 2019, the states with the highest rates of past-month marijuana use among people aged 12 or older were Colorado (20.2%), Vermont (19.6%), and Oregon (18.9%). The states with the lowest rates were Alabama (5.4%), Tennessee (5.7%), and Mississippi (6.0%).
  • In terms of total number of users, California had the most marijuana users in 2019, with over 6 million people reporting past-year use.
  • Other states with high rates of past-month marijuana use include Alaska (17.3%), Maine (16.0%), and Massachusetts (15.1%), based on data from 2018 and 2019.
  • In Alaska, which legalized recreational use of cannabis in 2015, approximately 19% of adults reported using cannabis in the past month.
  • Maine legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016, but sales did not begin until 2020 due to regulatory delays.
  • Although marijuana is legal for medical use in many states, it remains illegal under federal law.

Marijuana Use by Demographics

Demographic Rate of Past-Month Marijuana Use
Age 18-25 29.5%
Age 26 or older Between 5% and 11.8%
Adolescents aged 12-17 7-8%
Males 12.8%
Females 7.6%
Multiracial individuals 17.6%
White individuals 11.8%
Black or African American individuals 6.7%
Hispanic or Latino individuals 8.4%
Adults with a bachelor's degree or higher 6.5%
Adults with less than a high school diploma 13.5%
Adults with an annual household income of \$75,000 or more 6.5%
Adults with an annual household income of less than \$20,000 14.5%

Based on the latest findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), here are some statistics about marijuana use by demographics.

Age

  • In 2019, the highest rate of past-month marijuana use was among young adults aged 18-25, at 29.5%. The rate decreased with age, with only 5% of adults aged 65 or older reporting past-month use.
  • Among adolescents aged 12-17, past-month marijuana use has remained relatively stable in recent years, at around 7-8%.

Gender

  • Males are more likely than females to report using marijuana. In 2019, the NSDUH found that 12.8% of males aged 12 or older reported past-month use, compared to 7.6% of females.

Race/Ethnicity

  • The NSDUH found that in 2019, the highest rate of past-month marijuana use was among individuals who identified as multiracial (17.6%), followed by those who identified as white (11.8%).
  • Individuals who identified as Black or African American had a lower rate of past-month use at 6.7%, while those who identified as Hispanic or Latino had a rate of 8.4%.

Education and Income

  • In 2019, adults with higher levels of education were less likely to report past-month marijuana use. For example, only 6.5% of adults with a bachelor's degree or higher reported past-month use, compared to 13.5% of those with less than a high school diploma.
  • Similarly, adults with higher incomes were less likely to report past-month marijuana use. For example, only 6.5% of adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more reported past-month use, compared to 14.5% of those with an annual household income of less than $20,000.

Marijuana Use Among Youth

  • According to the CDC, nearly 40% of high school students have tried marijuana.
  • Those who use marijuana before age 12 are twice as likely to develop mental illness than those who first use it at age 18 or older.
  • Over 50% of marijuana users aged 18 or older report first using the drug between ages 12 and 17, with about 2% starting before age 12.
  • Despite this, the Monitoring the Future Survey has shown a decline in marijuana use among 8th graders in the past five years, with only 0.7% reporting use.
  • However, about 6% of high school seniors report daily marijuana use, while smaller percentages of 8th and 10th graders consider it harmful or disapprove of its regular use.
  • Only around 29% of 12th graders believe that regular marijuana use poses a great risk.
  • While 14.1% of 12th graders think that using marijuana from time to time is harmful, almost two-thirds report disapproving of adults smoking marijuana regularly.

Learn more: Marijuana and Its Psychological Impact on Both Adults and Teens

Marijuana Use Among Adults

  • In 2019, approximately 12.5% of adults aged 18 or older in the United States reported using marijuana in the past month.
  • Among adults who reported using marijuana in the past year, approximately 60% reported using it less than once a week, while around 20% reported using it daily or near-daily.
  • The highest rates of past-month marijuana use among adults were found in western states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
  • According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), men are more likely than women to report using marijuana. In 2019, the survey found that 14.7% of men aged 18 or older had used marijuana in the past month, compared to 10.4% of women.
  • A study published in JAMA Network Open found that between 2002 and 2015, there was a significant increase in the prevalence of daily or near-daily marijuana use among adults aged 50 and older.

Marijuana Usage Statistics in the United States

Source: Marijuana Use in the United States
  • People who have tried marijuana: Approximately 49% of Americans reported having tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
  • People who haven't tried marijuana: According to the latest findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2019, around 87.5% of people aged 12 or older had not used marijuana in the past month.

Reasons for Marijuana Use

Reason for Marijuana Use Percentage of Users Source
Recreational purposes 91% National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2019
Chronic pain N/A* Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, most commonly reported reason among medical marijuana users
Anxiety and depression N/A* Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, second most commonly reported reason among medical marijuana users
Relaxation/relieve tension 55% Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), past year users aged 18 or older
Fun/getting high 50% Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), past year users aged 18 or older
Improved sleep N/A* Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, reported by 45% of medical marijuana users
Reduced stress N/A* Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, reported by 34% of medical marijuana users
Increased appetite N/A* Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, reported by 28% of medical marijuana users
Self-medication for ADHD symptoms N/A* JAMA Pediatrics, found in some teenagers
  • In 2019, approximately 91% of adults who reported using marijuana in the past month did so for recreational purposes, according to a survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
  • Chronic pain was the most commonly reported reason for medical marijuana use, followed by anxiety and depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
  • Among adults aged 18 or older who used marijuana in the past year, approximately 55% reported using it to relax or relieve tension, while around 50% reported using it to have fun or get high, according to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • Other reasons for marijuana use include improving sleep (reported by 45% of medical marijuana users), reducing stress (reported by 34% of medical marijuana users), and increasing appetite (reported by 28% of medical marijuana users), according to a survey published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
  • A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that some teenagers used marijuana to self-medicate for symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Medical Marijuana Use in the US

  • In 2019, approximately 4.6 million people reported using medical marijuana in the past month, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
  • Chronic pain was the most common qualifying condition for medical marijuana use, with over 90% of medical marijuana patients reporting it as a reason for their use, according to a survey published in Health Affairs.
  • Other common qualifying conditions include muscle spasms, nausea, and cancer-related symptoms such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
  • As of 2021, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana use.
  • A study published in JAMA Network Open found that states with legalized medical marijuana saw a decrease in opioid prescriptions for Medicaid patients compared to states where medical marijuana remained illegal.

Marijuana-Related Emergency Room Visits on the Rise in the United States

Year Total Number of ER Visits Related to Marijuana Use Percentage of ER Visits Involving Marijuana Use Alone Percentage of ER Visits Involving Multiple Substances
2019 Approx. 526,000 36% 64%
  • In 2019, there were approximately 526,000 emergency room visits related to marijuana use in the United States. (Source: Drug Abuse Warning Network)
  • Among those emergency room visits, around 36% involved marijuana use alone, while the remaining 64% involved the use of multiple substances. (Source: Drug Abuse Warning Network)
  • The most common symptoms reported among emergency room patients with marijuana-related visits include anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and vomiting. (Source: American College of Emergency Physicians)

The Relationship Between Marijuana Use and Mental Health

  • Studies have shown that marijuana use can have both positive and negative effects on mental health.
  • On one hand, some research suggests that marijuana may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that people who used cannabis reported lower levels of depression and anxiety than non-users.
  • However, other studies have linked marijuana use to an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as psychosis and schizophrenia. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), using marijuana can trigger psychotic episodes in people who are already at risk for these conditions.
  • Additionally, frequent or heavy marijuana use during adolescence has been associated with a higher likelihood of developing mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder later in life.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2019, approximately 5% of adults aged 18 or older who used marijuana in the past year reported experiencing a major depressive episode within the past year.
  • Furthermore, a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that daily cannabis users had a higher risk of developing first-time psychosis compared to non-users.

The Dangers of Marijuana Use: Statistics and Findings

  • In 2019, approximately 4.5 million people met the criteria for marijuana use disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
  • The same survey found that around 1 in 10 users of marijuana will become addicted to it.
  • According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, states with legalized recreational marijuana saw an increase in hospitalizations related to marijuana use disorders between 2008 and 2017.
  • The study also found that the states with legalized recreational marijuana had higher rates of emergency department visits related to cannabis use compared to states where recreational use remained illegal.
  • A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that in 2019, approximately 6% of adults who used marijuana in the past year reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stopped using it.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment: CBT and MET Success Rates

  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2019, approximately 4.5 million people met the criteria for marijuana use disorder, but only around 138,000 received treatment for their addiction.
  • A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that individuals who sought treatment for marijuana use disorder had an average of 15 years of regular marijuana use before seeking help.
  • Another study published in Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was effective in treating marijuana addiction, with a success rate of around 60%.
  • The same study found that motivational enhancement therapy (MET) was also effective, with a success rate of around 50%.
  • A review of studies on the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for marijuana addiction, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found mixed results. While some medications showed promise in reducing marijuana use and cravings, others did not show significant benefits compared to placebo.

Conclusion

Marijuana use is a prevalent issue in the United States, with almost half of Americans reporting having tried it at least once in their lifetime. While marijuana has been legalized for medical and/or recreational use in many states, it still poses potential risks to mental health and addiction. Chronic pain is the most commonly reported reason for medical marijuana use, while recreational users report using it for relaxation or to have fun.

Despite a decline in marijuana use among 8th graders, over 50% of marijuana users aged 18 or older report first using the drug between ages 12 and 17. The dangers of marijuana use include addiction and withdrawal symptoms, as well as an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as psychosis and depression.

However, some research suggests that marijuana may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Treatment options for marijuana addiction include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET), which have shown success rates of around 60% and 50%, respectively.

Sources

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