Millions more Americans got hooked on marijuana last year and some 100,000 teenagers tried it for the first time, anti-pot activists say about the latest official data.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House drugs tsar who now campaigns against breakneck legalization, said the government’s annual survey of substance abuse revealed ‘more users and more addiction.’
The number of teens and adults suffering from cannabis use disorder jumped 14 percent to 19 million, he warned.
Meanwhile, the 12.5 million stoned drivers who got behind the wheel marked a 15 percent rise on the previous year, he added.
Worse still, the number of teenagers who saw smoking weed as dangerous fell slightly, and 100,000 more of them started using the drug in the past 12 months, he said.
Some 100,000 American teens started using cannabis this past year
The driver of this vehicle in this fatal accident in New York was charged with homicide while under the influence of weed
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 users and more addiction,’ said Sabet, president of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
The survey comes after Ohioans this month voted to legalize recreational weed for adults, making it the 24th US state to do so, as has Washington DC. Several other states allow it for medical uses.
Advocates say pot has health and social benefits, but critics say widespread use leads to higher rates of mental health problems, substance abuse and even more stoned drivers causing car crashes.
Researchers found that nearly a quarter of American teens and adults had used an illicit drug in the past year, with pot far and away the most popular, with 61.9 million people using it at least once.
More than 17.3 percent of survey respondents had a substance use disorder, meaning they were addicted to it or unable to control their use. The most common problem was with alcohol.
Addiction and substance abuse was causing serious health problems, federal officials warned. A quarter of adults suffered from a mental illness last year, and a fifth of adolescents had a major depressive episode.
A counselor suggests healthy alternatives to smoking pot at a teen therapy session
Two dozen teens discuss cannabis, school and stress at a groups session in Charlestown, Maryland
‘These drugs aren’t safe and they’re not medicine,’ says Kevin Sabet
White House Drug Policy Director Dr Rahul Gupta said America was affected coast to coast.
‘This is not a red state or a blue state issue,’ he said.
‘There are currently more than 48 million Americans struggling with substance use disorder, and three out of every four are not getting the treatment that they need.’
Legalization across growing swathes of America comes as scientists increasingly sound alarms about the drug.
Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say the number of car crash injuries has risen by nearly six percent in states that have legalized recreational cannabis use.
The group’s study last year showed a 5.8 percent rise in traffic crashes in Colorado Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada after those states legalized cannabis and ‘pot shops’ sprang up.
Experts from 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 in May warned that pot may be driving a 30 percent surge in schizophrenia cases among young men.
Joshua Jimenez died by suicide in December 2021 at the age of 22. Josh had been using marijuana since age 14 and was hospitalized three times for psychosis linked to weed
The above shows cannabis use across American 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 people who abused cannabis told DailyMail.com about how their lives had been turned upside down by pot.
Sonia Jimenez, from Houston, Texas, lost her son Josh, 22, to suicide in December 2021, which she believes was caused by chronic cannabis use.
Josh started smoking and vaping the drug in 9th grade and soon formed a habit that resulted in three bouts of hospital stays for psychosis.
After he began using weed, Josh’s grades started slipping. He also became extremely paranoid, saying that his friends had been trying to kill him, adding that he was seeing ‘some really scary stuff like dark, 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 severe car crash. Another time, he fell asleep after smoking or lighting a candle, according to his sister, which caused a massive fire.
Josh’s sister Alex said he had borrowed money from family members before running away in the night to California. When he ran out of cash, Josh’s family paid for a bus to bring him back to Texas. But he never made it home. Josh got off the bus in Pecos, Texas, and jumped in front of a train.
His family blame the extremely potent strains of cannabis Josh was smoking. THC, particularly in high doses, has been associated with the development of different psychiatric disorders from depression to schizophrenia and psychosis.
Anti-pot campaigner Sabet agrees about the perils of high-strength weed.
‘The normalization and industrialization of today’s 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 users by telling people their products are safe and even beneficial.’
What are the health risks of marijuana?
About 48 million Americans smoke cannabis at least once a year, official estimates suggest.
Marijuana is the third-most commonly used drug in the US behind alcohol and tobacco.
This figure is rising 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 over its health risks, particularly for young adults.
Researchers suggest it has the following negative impacts:
- Brain damage: It can cause a permanent loss of IQ because it hinders brain development and could even have lasting cognition effects in young adults;
- Mental health: It has been linked to increased 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: Those who drive under the influence have slower reactions and less coordination, research shows.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.