Safety and OSHA News

Marijuana use among U.S. adults doubles over past decade

How many employees at your workplace are using marijuana? About double the percentage compared to a decade ago, according to a recently published study. 

Surveys in 2012-13 show 9.5% of Americans (about 1 in 10) used marijuana in the previous 12 months, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In 2001-2002, that number was 4.1%.

The prevalence of marijuana use disorder rose from 1.5% to 2.9%.

However, the proportion of users who have a marijuana use disorder decreased from 35.6% to 30.6%. That means the rate of addiction among users has dropped somewhat. Still, 3 out of 10 users meet the criteria for addiction.

Criteria for addiction include:

  • taking the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended by the user
  • a persistent desire to cut down or control use
  • unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use
  • failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home, and
  • tolerance and/or withdrawal.

“These findings highlight the changing cultural norms related to marijuana use, which could bring additional public health challenges related to addiction, drugged driving and access to effective treatment,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which contributed funding to the study.

Young adults (ages 18-29) were found to be at highest risk for pot use (21.2%) and marijuana use disorder (7.5%).

More states now have laws allowing some type of weed use: 23 have medical marijuana laws, and four states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Here’s one way to think about pot use among employees: How do their job duties compare to the task of driving a car?

Studies show marijuana impairs driving and increases lane weaving. Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado, drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes are significantly more likely to test positive for pot use.

The study’s authors note “public education about the dangers associated with marijuana use, presented in a reasonable and balanced manner, will be increasingly important to counteract public beliefs that marijuana use is harmless.”

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry.

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