Marijuana may still be considered an illicit drug in the U.S., but this hasn't stopped Americans from smoking it. A new study has found that the number of Americans who smoke marijuana is higher than it's been in years, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

According to a recent study published in the online journal Lancet Psychiatry, about 10 million more Americans smoke marijuana now than 12 years ago, and about 8.4 million do so on nearly a daily basis. Between 2002 and 2014, the percentage of Americans who said they smoked marijuana at least once in the previous year grew from 10.4 percent to 13.3 percent. This brings the population who admitted using marijuana from 21.9 million in 2002 to 31.9 million in 2014.

cannabis 8.4 million Americans use marijuana on a near-daily basis. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

“We certainly expected, based on other research, to find an increase” in marijuana use, said Dr. Wilson M. Compton, an author of the study, The Guardian reported. “It’s well known in the US that the laws related to marijuana have been changing; we’ve seen a number of states passing laws to allow marijuana for medical purposes.”

Although the team expected to see an increase in marijuana use overall, according to Compton, they were particularly surprised to see how many Americans reported to use the drug on a daily or near-to-daily basis. Although many Americans reported regular marijuana use habits, the researchers did not find an increase in marijuana abuse, or “use disorder,” a psychiatric term used to the describe the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs that causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

Still, the researchers suggested that the sharp increase in marijuana use among Americans may indicate a need for education regarding the  risks associated with this drug. For example, the drug is associated with lower academic function and more deliquent behavior in school-aged users. Marijuana use is also associated with an increased risk of abusing other substances. 

Source: Compton WM, Han B, Jones CM, Blanco C, Hughes A. Marijuana use and use disorders in adults in the USA, 2002–14: analysis of annual cross-sectional surveys. The Lancet. 2016

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