US Epidemiology of Cannabis Use and Associated Problems

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Jan;43(1):195-212. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.198. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


This review provides an overview of the changing US epidemiology of cannabis use and associated problems. Adults and adolescents increasingly view cannabis as harmless, and some can use cannabis without harm. However, potential problems include harms from prenatal exposure and unintentional childhood exposure; decline in educational or occupational functioning after early adolescent use, and in adulthood, impaired driving and vehicle crashes; cannabis use disorders (CUD), cannabis withdrawal, and psychiatric comorbidity. Evidence suggests national increases in cannabis potency, prenatal and unintentional childhood exposure; and in adults, increased use, CUD, cannabis-related emergency room visits, and fatal vehicle crashes. Twenty-nine states have medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and of these, 8 have recreational marijuana laws (RMLs). Many studies indicate that MMLs or their specific provisions did not increase adolescent cannabis use. However, the more limited literature suggests that MMLs have led to increased cannabis potency, unintentional childhood exposures, adult cannabis use, and adult CUD. Ecological-level studies suggest that MMLs have led to substitution of cannabis for opioids, and also possibly for psychiatric medications. Much remains to be determined about cannabis trends and the role of MMLs and RMLs in these trends. The public, health professionals, and policy makers would benefit from education about the risks of cannabis use, the increases in such risks, and the role of marijuana laws in these increases.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Use / trends
  • United States / epidemiology