FEB 29, 2024 7:27 PM PST

Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder Remains Low Despite Increasing Use Policies

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A new study suggests that treatment for cannabis use disorder (CUD) remained low and even decreased in states following medical cannabis laws and dispensary provisions. This, one researcher noted, translates to a growing unmet treatment need throughout the US. The corresponding study was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence

For the study, researchers examined data from the 2004- 2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, which includes annual measures from around 68,000 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In particular, they examined data from people aged 12 years and older with past-year CUD or classified as needing CUD treatment. 

Ultimately, they found that specialty CUD treatment prevalence decreased by 1.35 points after medical cannabis laws without dispensaries and by 2.15 points after medical cannabis laws with dispensaries provisions became effective compared to periods before legislation. 

They further noted that among people with CUD in 2004-2014, specialty treatment only decreased in states with medical cannabis laws and dispensary provisions, but that medical cannabis laws were not linked to CUD treatment use in 2015-2019. They also reported that recreational cannabis laws were linked to lower CUD treatment among people classified as needing CUD treatment but not those with past-year CUD. 

 “Specialty CUD treatment remained low among people with CUD, and our findings suggest lower treatment among people without CUD in states with RCL. This could be due to changing criminal legal referrals or other mandated or coerced treatment,” said Pia Mauro, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in a press release

“Because cannabis use disorder treatment was so low across states, we note the urgency for targeting efforts in support of people with CUD, particu­larly in states with cannabis dispensaries. From a structural perspec­tive, this includes training and supporting providers to increase screening and discussions about cannabis use and ensuring access to effective evidence-based services,” she added.  

“The findings also suggest the need for public education about the likelihood and symptoms of CUD, as well as need for treatment when clinically indicated, in the context of changing cannabis legal status,” she concluded. 


Sources: EurekAlertDrug and Alcohol Dependence

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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