Cannabis Use Disorder: New Study Sheds Light on Prevalence and Patterns

cannabis use disorder
T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Unveiling Cannabis Use Disorder: Prevalence, Dependency, and Implications

cannabis use disorder: Cannabis, once widely stigmatized, has seen a surge in acceptance as more states legalize its use for both recreational and medical purposes. However, this increasing accessibility has raised concerns about the potential for cannabis use disorder (CUD) to take root within its user base.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open has highlighted the prevalence of CUD among cannabis users, offering valuable insights into the patterns and implications of problematic cannabis use.

The Alarming Statistics

The study’s findings paint a concerning picture: more than one-fifth (21 percent) of individuals who use cannabis have exhibited signs of cannabis use disorder.

Characterized by clinicians as problematic cannabis consumption leading to various symptoms, CUD encompasses issues such as social and occupational problems, impairment, and distress.

Even more alarming is the fact that 6.5 percent of users suffered from moderate to severe disorder, indicating a significant level of dependency and struggle.

Distinguishing Patterns of Dependency

The research further delves into the patterns of dependency within the cannabis user population. The study identified that those facing more severe dependency were often recreational users.

On the other hand, individuals with less severe yet still problematic use had nearly equal representation from both medical and recreational users.

Irrespective of the nature of use, increased tolerance, intense cravings, and an uncontrolled escalation of cannabis consumption were the most common symptoms observed across both groups.

Context in the Growing Landscape

As the legal landscape around cannabis evolves, so do the concerns associated with its usage. With the increasing legalization and availability of cannabis, the findings of this study come as no surprise.

In fact, the prevalence of CUD revealed in this research mirrors previous studies that have pointed to approximately 20 percent of cannabis users developing the disorder. This reality necessitates a closer examination of how to address and mitigate the risks that come with cannabis use.

Data Sources and Methodology

To arrive at these conclusions, the study gathered data from nearly 1,500 primary care patients in Washington State, where recreational cannabis use is legal. The aim was to explore the prevalence of CUD among both medical and nonmedical users.

The results showed that 42 percent of cannabis users identified solely as medical users, 25 percent as nonmedical users, and 32 percent as both recreational and medical users. These insights underscore the importance of assessing cannabis use and CUD symptoms in medical settings, providing healthcare professionals with the information they need to offer appropriate guidance and support.

Looking Ahead

The implications of this study are profound, indicating a clear need for education and awareness regarding the risks of developing cannabis use disorder. Particularly among those who start using cannabis early and use it frequently during adolescence, there’s a heightened vulnerability to the disorder.

It’s crucial for healthcare providers, policymakers, and society at large to acknowledge these findings and engage in informed discussions about responsible cannabis use, preventive measures, and effective treatment strategies for those struggling with dependency.


The latest research brings much-needed attention to the issue of cannabis use disorder, shedding light on its prevalence, patterns, and potential implications. As cannabis continues to be legalized and integrated into various aspects of society, addressing the challenges posed by problematic use is paramount.

By fostering an environment of open dialogue, research, and proactive support, we can strive to strike a balance between the benefits of cannabis and the risks of its misuse, ensuring the well-being of all individuals who engage with it.