Marijuana: Usage trends

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 5:03 pm

Scope and severity
Marijuana is by far the most frequently abused illegal drug worldwide. The Office of National Drug Control Policy stated in its 2001 Annual Report that about 80% of Americans abusing illegal drugs used marijuana. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), indicated in 2000 that marijuana is also more likely than other illegal drugs to be combined with other controlled substances.
Nationally, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) estimated in 1999 that a third of the American population (72 million people) have tried marijuana at least once, but only 8.6% had used it during the past year. Figures decline even further when respondents were asked about more frequent use: Only about 5.1% (11.2 million) of the American population aged 12 and older were monthly marijuana or hashish users. This is roughly the same as in 1991, but less than half the rate of 13.2% reported in 1979.
Age, ethnic, and gender trends
The age group least likely to have tried marijuana were those over 70, according to a poll conducted in 2001. Of that group, only 2% said they had ever tried the drug. Of those aged 60-70 years old, only 15% had done so. These were followed by 51-59-year-olds (35%), 35-50-year-olds (53%), 26-34-year-olds (40%), and 18-25-year-olds, the youngest population segment surveyed, who were the most likely of all the groups to have used marijuana — 55% of them said they had tried the drug.
A concurrence among different studies is that the use of marijuana, at least among young people, is on a decline. However, a National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) study showed that eighth graders in rural areas are more likely (11.6%) than their urban counterparts (8.6%) to have used marijuana. Usage by older teens has been consistent, while 19.4% of tenth graders and a sobering 23.1% of high school seniors had reported using marijuana. A 1999 study showed that 49.7% of high school seniors surveyed admitted using marijuana, many starting at 13 or younger.
In a 2001 study, the number of men who abused marijuana consistently outnumbered women, and by a large margin. Males comprised anywhere from 60-72% of marijuana users, and men were also far more likely than women to be admitted to treatment centers for marijuana abuse.
Marijuana use also varies by racial and ethnic groups. American Indians/Alaskan Natives of all ages were the most likely of any racial/ethnic category to have used marijuana. Use among whites and blacks was roughly equivalent, while figures for Hispanics were lower, although the numbers varied depending on their subgroup (e.g., Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, etc.). Asians/Pacific Islanders were the least likely to have used marijuana, though 18-25-year-olds reported statistically significant usage, and even that was the lowest of any group studied.
Marijuana is the most abused drug in the European Union. As in the United States, young people were much more likely than other age groups to have used marijuana. Reflecting their national trends, about 15% of the youth surveyed in Finland and Sweden had tried the drug, compared with highs of 28^-0% in Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
One group that is highly likely to use marijuana, however, cuts across racial, ethnic, and demographic lines: arrestees. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that those arrested for crimes were more likely to test positive for marijuana than any other drug.

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