An analysis of federal-based survey data shows that before the United States legalized marijuana, more Americans were struggling with frequent, problematic use. The research found that there is an apparent decline in daily marijuana use among those who may have a cannabis use disorder. 


The Study

The study focused on data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, honing in on frequent marijuana users. They defined a frequent user as someone who used marijuana at least 300 days per year. The survey asked questions about diagnosing cannabis use disorder, such as:

  • Has marijuana use caused a tolerance to develop?
  • Has marijuana use caused any legal or social problems?
  • Does marijuana use continue despite these issues?


The Numbers and Their Implications

Between 2002 and 2016, the findings of the survey data found that:

  • Among teens, problem marijuana use declined by 27%. Furthermore, there was a 26% decrease in their driving under its influence. 
  • Young adults experienced a 30% decline in the problematic use of marijuana. 29% of these young adults also reported decreases in driving under its influence.
  • Almost 40% of adults aged 26 and up experienced a decline in problem use of marijuana. Also, 40% of them reported decreases in driving under the influence. 

This study indicates that the number of people experiencing problems decreased, contrary to predictions that legalizing marijuana would increase problematic use. Researchers believe that legalization makes it less likely that users will be incarcerated or face legal issues due to their use, and that’s why frequent users reported that their marijuana use negatively affected their lives. Therefore, legalization itself causes marijuana to cause fewer problems in one’s life. Lessening the stigma of marijuana created an idea of it being equal to a glass of wine or a drink after work. This would suggest that frequent users may just be coming home after a day of work and smoking to wind down rather than engaging in the behavior all day long. 


Normalizing Use Is Not the Answer to Substance Use Disorder, and Help Is Only a Phone Call Away

These findings do not point to the fact that the legalization of any illicit substance leads to declines in substance use disorders. On top of this, labeling marijuana use as normative may be skewing the study’s findings, in that fewer people think that they have a problem since they are now using a “legal” substance. 


At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.