Millions more Americans became addicted to marijuana last year and some 100,000 teenagers tried it for the first time, anti-marijuana activists say in the latest official data.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug czar who now campaigns against fast-paced legalization, said the government’s annual survey of substance abuse revealed “more users and more addiction.”
It warned that the number of adolescents and adults suffering from a cannabis use disorder increased by 14 percent, to 19 million.
Meanwhile, the 12.5 million drugged drivers who got behind the wheel marked a An increase of 15 percent from the previous year, he added.
Worse still, the number of teenagers who considered smoking marijuana dangerous fell slightly, and 100,000 more began using the drug in the last 12 months, he said.
About 100,000 American teenagers started using cannabis last year
The driver of this vehicle in this fatal accident in New York was charged with homicide while under the influence of marijuana.
The new data is based on responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a survey conducted annually by the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
White House Drug Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta
“This is what billions in lobbying, marketing and product development buy: more consumers and more addiction,” said Sabet, president of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
The poll comes after Ohioans voted this month to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, making it the 24th US state to do so, joining Washington, DC. Several other states allow it for medical uses.
Proponents say marijuana has health and social benefits, but critics say its widespread use leads to higher rates of mental health problems, substance abuse and even more drugged drivers causing car accidents.
Researchers found that nearly a quarter of American teens and adults had used an illicit drug in the past year, with marijuana by far the most popular, with 61.9 million people using it at least once.
More than 17.3 percent of respondents had a substance use disorder, meaning they were addicted to substances or unable to control their use. The most common problem was alcohol.
Addiction and substance abuse were causing serious health problems, federal officials warned. A quarter of adults suffered from a mental illness in the past year and a fifth of teenagers had a major depressive episode.
Counselor suggests healthy alternatives to smoking marijuana in teen therapy session
Two dozen teens talk about cannabis, school and stress at group session in Charlestown, Maryland
“These drugs are not safe and they are not medicines,” says Kevin Sabet
Dr. Rahul Gupta, White House Drug Policy Director, said the United States was affected from coast to coast.
“This is not a red state issue or a blue state issue,” he said.
“There are currently more than 48 million Americans struggling with substance use disorder, and three out of four are not getting the treatment they need.”
Legalization in large areas of the United States comes as scientists increasingly sound alarm bells about the drug.
Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say the number of car accident injuries has increased nearly six percent in states that have legalized recreational cannabis use.
The group’s study last year showed a 5.8 percent increase in traffic accidents in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada after those states legalized cannabis and “pot shops” emerged.
Experts at Stanford University revealed in February that cannabis users are up to a third more likely to suffer a heart attack than others.
Researchers backed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse warned in May that marijuana could be causing a 30 percent increase in cases of schizophrenia among young men.
Joshua Jiménez committed suicide in December 2021 at the age of 22. Josh had been using marijuana since he was 14 and was hospitalized three times for marijuana-related psychosis.
The above shows cannabis consumption in the states of the United States. Twenty-four states and DC have legalized it for recreational use in addition to medicinal use, while most allow it for medicinal purposes.
That same month, relatives of three cannabis abusers told DailyMail.com how their lives had been turned upside down by marijuana.
Sonia Jiménez, of Houston, Texas, lost her 22-year-old son Josh to suicide in December 2021, which she believes was caused by chronic cannabis use.
Josh began smoking and vaping the drug in ninth grade and soon formed a habit that resulted in three episodes of hospitalization for psychosis.
After he began using marijuana, Josh’s grades began to decline. He also became extremely paranoid, saying that his friends had been trying to kill him and adding that he was seeing “some really scary things like darkness, almost like demonic beings,” according to his sister.
At one point, he fell asleep behind the wheel, going about 100 miles per hour, and was in a serious car accident. On another occasion, he fell asleep after smoking or lighting a candle, according to his sister, causing a massive fire.
Josh’s sister Alex said she had borrowed money from family members before fleeing that night to California. When he ran out of money, Josh’s family paid for a bus to bring him back to Texas. But he never came home. Josh got off the bus in Pecos, Texas, and jumped in front of a train.
His family blames the extremely potent strains of cannabis that Josh smoked. THC, particularly in high doses, has been associated with the development of different psychiatric disorders, from depression to schizophrenia and psychosis.
Sabet, an anti-marijuana activist, agrees about the dangers of high-potency marijuana.
“The normalization and industrialization of current high-potency THC drug products is bad for Americans of all ages, especially our next generation,” he said.
“Big Marijuana has set its sights on hooking a new generation of consumers by telling them their products are safe and even beneficial.”
What are the health risks of marijuana?
Around 48 million Americans smoke cannabis at least once a year, official estimates suggest.
Marijuana is the third most consumed drug in the United States, behind alcohol and tobacco.
This number is increasing as states continue to legalize the drug.
24 US states and Washington DC have legalized the drug for recreational use for adults.
But evidence is also growing about its health risks, particularly for young adults.
Researchers suggest that it has the following negative impacts:
- Brain damage: It can cause permanent IQ loss because it hinders brain development and could even have lasting cognitive effects in young adults;
- Mental health: It has been linked to higher rates of suicide, as well as psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, although it is unclear if marijuana is the cause;
- Daily life: Surveys link it to more problems in careers and maintaining healthy relationships;
- Driving: Research shows that those who drive under the influence have slower reactions and less coordination.