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CDC: Although more people are using marijuana, fewer are abusing it

Medical marijuana

(NaturalNews) Those who insisted that legalizing marijuana would lead to a drug-crazed population have been proven wrong by the latest statistics released by the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of Americans aged 12 and older who met the diagnostic criteria for marijuana dependency or abuse was just 1.6 percent in 2014, a drop from the 1.8 percent that was noted in 2002.

The drop was most significant among teenagers, where a 37 percent decrease was noted. Young adults also showed an impressive drop of 18 percent. The change among those aged 26 and older, meanwhile, was not considered to be statistically significant.

The survey used to determine these figures looked at nearly 900,000 participants, while the criteria for abuse and dependency were taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Some of the flags for dependency included:

- Emotional or physical problems associated with the use of marijuana
- Trying but failing to cut down on use
- Cutting down on other activities to use marijuana
- Using marijuana in bigger amounts or for longer periods of time than intended

Flags for abuse included:

- Problems with friends or family caused by marijuana use
- Being placed in physical danger because of marijuana use
- Legal problems because of marijuana use
- Home, school or work problems caused by marijuana use

Abuse and dependency were pretty rare among the general marijuana-using population, with just under 12 percent of those using the drug in the past year meeting one of the criteria. This is a 30 percent drop from 2002, when 16.7 percent of people qualified for one of those categories.

All of this is occurring even as the number of people using marijuana overall rises. The number of people reporting using marijuana during the past month has risen by more than 35 percent since the year 2002.

Changes in laws affecting attitudes toward marijuana use

Researchers aren't sure why the increase in daily marijuana use – which went from 2 percent in 2002 to 3.5 percent in 2014 – has actually seen dependency and abuse drop, but the CDC theorizes that some of this can be attributed to changes in the medical marijuana laws.

They wrote: "With changes in medical marijuana laws and, in particular, state laws or policies allowing limited access to low percentages of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), persons who use marijuana daily for medical reasons might be using strains that pose lower risk for dependence or abuse."

The changing laws and public attitudes could be responsible for curbing some of the behaviors that often led to dependence or abuse in the past. For example, while 38.3 percent of Americans said monthly marijuana use posed a "great risk of harm" in 2002, only 26.5 percent said the same in 2014. At the same time, the number of people who felt monthly marijuana risk posed no risk at all jumped from 10 percent to 19.9 percent. This open mindset can also be seen as people embrace natural treatments like organic hemp and CBD oil.

Prescription painkiller overdoses also dropping

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that in all of the 13 states that legalized medical marijuana in the years from 1999 to 2010, deaths from overdosing on legally prescribed opioids decreased by 25 percent. The trend became apparent a year after pot was legalized in each state. The suggestion is that people are starting to turn to marijuana instead of pain pills to manage chronic pain. Moreover, Medicare prescriptions for common painkillers have been dropping in the states that permit medical marijuana.

It will be interesting to see how these findings influence voters in the five states that are set to decide in November whether or not recreational marijuana use should be legalized.

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