Fewer Teens are Seeking Treatment for Cannabis Use in Legal States


Already, cannabis enthusiasts have had the chance to rejoice over studies showing that drug abuse and teen use numbers are down in legal states, making the industry overall look good. Now, there is also evidence to suggest that fewer teens are seeking treatment for abusing cannabis in states where cannabis is recreationally legal. 

The number specifically broke down how many teens were admitted to treatment programs for cannabis-related issues. Overall, the findings showed that in states where cannabis is legal, the number was lower, and fewer teens were seeking treatment for misuse.

Trends in Adolescent Treatment Admissions for Marijuana in the United States, 2008-2017, the report that shared this data with the world, hailed from the United States and was published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the report, “adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana declined in most states. The mean annual admissions rate for all states declined over the study period by nearly half, from 60 (admissions per 10,000 adolescents) in 2008 to 31 in 2017.”

In other words, the states where the sharpest drop-offs were detected had not just medical, but also recreationally legal industries—the opposite of what many detractors thought would happen.

This is definitely significant information, both for cannabis advocates and those who may be on the fence. However, it is possible that the data also has something to do with the fact that cannabis laws are changing. Teens who may have been a part of the criminal justice system are now avoiding institutionalization. 

“[T]his research suggests that a precipitous national decline in adolescent treatment admissions [is occurring], particularly in states legalizing recreational marijuana use,” the report explains regarding the visible trend. 

Cannabis Use And Abuse

This echoes previously published work that outlines how cannabis abuse in young people has been on the decline since the early 2000s. That data matched the timeline of the cannabis industry, but didn’t name it as the source. 

“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported … showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes. This latter result is consistent … with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age,” claimed a JAMA Pediatrics study from last year. 

Cannabis advocates are citing this as more evidence that cannabis can provide support in the area of addiction treatment. 

“These findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that legalization policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano regarding the study.

While correlation does not necessarily equal causation in every case, more and more studies are matching up evidence about decline in substance abuse and youth use in legal states. The coming years will provide even more information to be gathered on the subject.



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