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Marijuana abuse associated with substance use and mental health disorders: Study

The United States is struggling to understand the impact of marijuana legalization though the drug has been legalized in 24 states and the District of Columbia for medical purposes. In some states, the practice of criminalizing offenders for illegal possession of marijuana has been discontinued, while a few other states have eased the stringent policies related to the drug, replacing hefty penalty with a civil fine. A surge in the number of people voting in favor of lawful sanctioning of marijuana use is a testimony to the growing number of cannabis users in the U.S.

A recent study by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH), Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that an estimated 6 million adults (2.5 percent), had experienced symptoms related to marijuana use in a year prior to the study.

Marijuana use disorder more common in Native Americans and singles

In the study, titled “Prevalence and Correlates of DSM-5 Cannabis Use Disorder, 2012-2013: Findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III,” published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in March 2016, the researchers accessed the data from the 2012-13 survey by the NIAAA’s National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). They also interviewed 36,309 participants aged 18 years or older to know about the pervasiveness, demographic features, co-occurring disorders, associated maladies and the extent of treatment associated with cannabis use disorder.

An examination of mental illnesses and disorders associated with substance use, along with the Alcohol Use Disorders and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule–5, was also conducted.

The results revealed that the extent of lifetime cannabis use disorder was 6.3 percent while its ubiquity over the last 12 months was 2.5 percent. The researchers said, “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. The disorder was more commonly found in men, Native Americans, single individuals, those in the low-income group and young adults aged 18-24 years.”

It was observed that those who were suffered severe bouts of marijuana use disorder were also afflicted with a considerable mental disability. Commenting on the findings, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “These findings demonstrate that people with marijuana use disorder are vulnerable to other mental health disorders.”

However, the observations are in contradiction to the view of many marijuana consumers who believe that the impact of marijuana use is relatively harmless. The belief prevents compulsive users from seeking the necessary treatment. Lead author Dr. Deborah Hasin, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Psychiatry at CUMC with a joint appointment in the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology, said, “An increasing number of American adults do not perceive marijuana use as harmful. While some can use marijuana without harms, other users do experience negative consequences, which can include mental and physical problems, and impaired functioning.”

However, the apex court is currently mulling over a litigation filed in 2014 by the States of Nebraska and Oklahoma requesting to undo Amendment 64 of the state of Colorado which permits the use of recreational marijuana.

Seeking recovery

The use of marijuana as a therapeutic intervention remains disputed as doctors are not fully aware of the possible harms associated with cannabis use disorders. Compulsive users often experience feelings of cravings, symptoms of withdrawal, along with a negative effect on professional and personal responsibilities.

If you or your loved one is battling any mental illness, do not keep it to yourself. Seek professional help to get rid of your problem. Take the first step towards a joyful life and call the 24/7 Recovery Helpline today to know about drug rehab centers in your area. To consult one of our mental health specialists, please call our 24/7 helpline at 855-441-4405 or chat online.

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