The number of people who use marijuana may not be increasing as quickly as though; it is possible that more people are just willing to admit that they use the drug, according to a new study.
The new laws in the United States made the use of marijuana more socially acceptable, which is why people are not as hesitant to admit that they use it, as they were back in 2002, the researchers said.
A study conducted in October 2015 found marijuana use has doubled in the United States, from 2003 to 2013. Moreover, based on the October study, the percentage of individuals who had a “marijuana use disorder” had also increased. People have the disorder if their marijuana use interferes with their family life or work, according to the researchers.
To conduct the previous study, the researchers used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). In this survey, researchers typically ask people about their drug use in a face-to-face interview. However, past studies have found big differences between the results of the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – in which participants give their responses anonymously on the Internet.
In the new study, the researchers used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found that marijuana use only increased from about 10.5 percent in 2002 to approximately 12.5 percent in 2013. Over the past decade, the number of marijuana users who met the criteria for marijuana use disorder has actually declined, the new study suggests.
The discrepancy between the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions may be because of people’s changes in attitude toward marijuana use. In 2003, participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions may have been less likely to disclose their marijuana use.
It is also possible that study participants were more honest in later surveys. For instance, the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions from 2003 was conducted by U.S. Census workers (who interviewed the participants), whereas the 2012 to 2013 NESARC survey was conducted by workers for a private corporation. According to the researchers, people are less likely to disclose illegal behaviours to government employees, compared with interviewers from the private sector.
The findings were published Wednesday (Feb. 10) in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
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