Written by Honor Whiteman Published: 1 September 2016
The perception of marijuana as a harmful drug has reduced among American adults, leading to an increase in its use, according to new research published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
Researchers suggest a rise in marijuana use in the U.S. is down to a reduced perception that the drug is harmful.
Study co-author Dr. Wilson M. Compton, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and colleagues found that between 2002-2014, marijuana use among adults in the United States increased by almost 3 percent.
The team also identified a 17 percent reduction in the percentage of Americans who perceived smoking marijuana as harmful, perhaps explaining why its use has risen.
However, the researchers identified no increase in prevalence of marijuana use disorders.
While marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug in America, as of June this year, 25 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the drug for medical and/or recreational purposes.
With these rapidly changing marijuana laws, Dr. Compton notes that it is important to identify trends in marijuana use and dependence across the U.S., and how perception of marijuana risks influences such trends.
"Understanding patterns of marijuana use and dependence, and how these have changed over time is essential for policymakers who continue to consider whether and how to modify laws related to marijuana and for healthcare practitioners who care for patients using marijuana," he explains.