Marijuana Use Disorder Affects 6 Million Americans, Few Receive Mental Health Treatment

Scientists from Columbia University say false and misinformed opinions of marijuana’s health benefits may keep those dependent on the drug from seeking treatment.

Marijuana Use Disorder

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, revealed crucial insights into the spread of problems associated with marijuana use:

  • Six million adults have experienced marijuana use disorder in the past year.
  • Only 7% received any marijuana-specific treatment.
  • Nearly 15 million adults in the United States said they had met the diagnostic criteria for marijuana abuse or dependence at some point in their lives.
  • Only 13% went on to seek professional treatment.

When diagnosing marijuana use disorder in a patient, physicians are required to identify two of at least 11 symptoms that assess craving, withdrawal, lack of control, and whether the drug has had any negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities within 12 months. Depending on the number of symptoms, dependency can be rated as mild, moderate or severe.

Researchers reviewed data from more than 36,000 U.S. adults who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. They found that

  • Marijuana dependence is nearly twice as common among men than women.
  • Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years are much more likely to abuse marijuana compared to people older than 45 years of age.
  • People with low income levels had the highest risk for developing the disorder.

Marijuana use disorder was also strongly and consistently associated with other substance use and mental disorders, suggesting that despite the softening of social attitudes toward the drug and its increased use, “persons with cannabis use disorder continue to be vulnerable to other common mental disorders,” the study authors wrote.

These findings demonstrate that people with marijuana use disorder are vulnerable to other mental health disorders,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which helped fund the study.

The study emphasizes the need for such individuals to receive help through evidence-based treatments that address these co-occurring conditions.”

While more research is needed to examine marijuana’s long-term impact on mental health, researchers say cannabis use disorder is a serious issue and can be a disabling and disruptive disorder if left untreated.

The study highlights the need to educate the public, professionals, and policy makers about the seriousness of cannabis use disorder and the need for public health efforts to destigmatize and encourage seeking help for cannabis use disorder among individuals who cannot reduce their use of marijuana on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others,” the authors wrote.


Hsain D, Kerridge B, Saha T, et al. Prevalence and Correlates of DSM-5 Cannabis use Disorder, 2012-2013: Findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2016.

Source Website