Changes in Self‐Reported Cannabis Use in the United States from 1979 to 2022

Journal: Addiction, 2024, doi: 10.1111/add.16519

Author: Jonathan P. Caulkins


Background and aims: Multiple countries are considering revising cannabis policies. This study aimed to measure long-term trends in cannabis use in the United States and compare them with alcohol use.

Design and setting: Secondary analysis of United States general population survey data.

Participants: The national surveys had a total of 1 641 041 participants across 27 surveys from 1979 to 2022.

Measurements: Rates of use reported to the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health and its predecessors are described, as are trends in days of use reported. Four milepost years are contrasted: 1979 (first available data and end of relatively liberal policies of the 1970s), 1992 (end of 12 years of conservative Reagan-Bush era policies), 2008 (last year before the Justice Department signaled explicit federal non-interference with state-level legalizations) and 2022 (most recent data available).

Findings: Reported cannabis use declined to a nadir in 1992, with partial recovery through 2008, and substantial increases since then, particularly for measures of more intensive use. Between 2008 and 2022, the per capita rate of reporting past-year use increased by 120%, and days of use reported per capita increased by 218% (in absolute terms from the annual equivalent of 2.3 to 8.1 billion days per year). From 1992 to 2022, there was a 15-fold increase in the per capita rate of reporting daily or near daily use. Whereas the 1992 survey recorded 10 times as many daily or near daily alcohol as cannabis users (8.9 vs. 0.9 M), the 2022 survey, for the first time, recorded more daily and near daily users of cannabis than alcohol (17.7 vs. 14.7 M). Far more people drink, but high-frequency drinking is less common. In 2022, the median drinker reported drinking on 4–5 days in the past month, versus 15–16 days in the past month for cannabis. In 2022, past-month cannabis consumers were almost four times as likely to report daily or near daily use (42.3% vs. 10.9%) and 7.4 times more likely to report daily use (28.2% vs. 3.8%).

Conclusions: Long-term trends in cannabis use in the United States parallel corresponding changes in cannabis policy, with declines during periods of greater restriction and growth during periods of policy liberalization. A growing share of cannabis consumers report daily or near daily use, and their numbers now exceed the number of daily and near daily drinkers.

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Emerging Models of De Facto Drug Policy Reforms in the United States

Journal: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2024.111341

Authors: Saba Rouhani, Leanne Zhang, Abigail Winiker, Susan Sherman, & Sachini Bandara


Background: Health and human rights organizations have endorsed drug decriminalization to promote public health-oriented approaches to substance use. In the US, policymakers have begun to pursue this via prosecutorial discretion—or the decision by a prosecutor to decline criminal charges for drug possession in their jurisdiction. This study characterizes drivers of adoption, policy design and implementation processes, and barriers to impact and sustainability of this approach to inform evolving policy efforts promoting the health of people who use drugs (PWUD).

Methods: We conducted n=22 key informant interviews with policymakers and national policy experts representing 13 jurisdictions implementing de facto drug policy reforms. Analyses were informed by the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation and Sustainment (EPIS) framework and analyzed using a hybrid inductive-deductive approach.

Results: Drivers of policy adoption included racial inequities, perceived failures of criminalization, and desires to prioritize violent crime given resource constraints. Three distinct policy typologies are described with varying conditions for eligibility, linkage to services, and policy transparency and dissemination. Public misinformation, police resistance and political opposition were seen as threats to sustainability.

Conclusions: Given evidence that criminalization amplifies drug-related harms, many policymakers are adopting de facto drug policy reforms in the absence of formal legislation. This is the first study to systematically describe relevant implementation processes and emerging policy models. Findings have implications for designing rigorous evaluations on health outcomes and informing sustainable evidence-based policies to promote health and racial equity of PWUD in the US.

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Comparing Harm Reduction and Overdose Response Services Between Community-Based and Public Health Department Syringe Service Programmes Using a National Cross-Sectional Survey

Journal: The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2024.100757

Authors: Bradley R. Ray, Jamie L. Humphrey, Sheila V. Patel, Christopher F. Akiba, Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Hansel Tookes, … Barrot H. Lambdin


Background: Syringe services programmes (SSPs) are an evidence-based strategy to reduce infectious diseases and deliver overdose prevention interventions for people who use drugs. They face regulatory, administrative, and funding barriers that limit their implementation in the US, though the federal government recently began providing funding to support these efforts. In this study we aim to understand whether the organisational characteristics of SSPs are associated with the provision of syringe and other overdose response strategies.

Methods: We examine four outcomes using the National Survey of Syringe Services Programs (NSSSP) (N = 472): syringe distribution, naloxone distribution, fentanyl test strip (FTS) availability, and buprenorphine implementation. These outcomes are assessed across three organizational categories of SSPs-those operated by public health departments (DPH), community-based organizations (CBOs) with government funding, and CBOs without government funding-while adjusting for community-level confounders.

Findings: The proportion of SSPs by organizational category was 36% DPH, 42% CBOs with government funding, and 22% CBOs without government funding. Adjusting for community-level differences, we found that CBO SSPs with government funding had significantly higher provision of all four syringe and overdose response services as compared to DPH SSPs and across three of the four services as compared to CBO SSPs without government funding. CBO SSPs without government funding still had significantly higher provision of three of the four services as compared to programmes maintained by the DPH.

Interpretation: CBO SSPs have strong potential to expand overdose response services nationally, particularly if provided with sustained and adequate funding. Communities should aim to provide funding that does not hinder SSP innovation so they can remain flexible in responding to local needs.

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The Effect of a Pilot Brief Educational Intervention on Preferences Regarding Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder

Journal: Drug and Alcohol Dependence Reports, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.dadr.2024.100235

Authors: Emaun Irani, Colin Macleod, Stephanie Slat, Adrianne Kehne, Erin Madden, Kaitlyn Jaffe, Amy Bohnert, & Pooja Lagisetty


Purpose: Negative perceptions around medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) amongst the public could deter patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) from engaging with MOUD. Thus, we evaluated whether a brief intervention could improve preferences for MOUD in people who may or may not use opioids.

Methods: We employed a pre-post design to assess the effect of a brief educational intervention on preferences for methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and non-medication treatment in an online sample of US adults stratified by race, who may or may not use opioids. Respondents ranked their preferences in OUD treatment before and after watching four one-minute educational videos about treatment options. Changes in treatment preferences were analyzed using Bhapkar’s test and post hoc McNemar’s tests. A binary logistic generalized estimating equation (GEE) assessed factors associated with preference between treatments.

Results: The sample had 530 responses. 194 identified as White, 173 Black, 163 Latinx. Treatment preferences changed significantly towards MOUD (p<.001). This effect was driven by changes toward buprenorphine (OR=2.38; p<.001) and away from non-medication treatment (OR=0.20; p<.001). There was no significant difference in effect by race/ethnicity. People with lower opioid familiarity were significantly more likely to change their preferences towards MOUD following the intervention.

Conclusion: Respondent preferences for MOUD increased following the intervention suggesting that brief educational interventions can change treatment preferences towards MOUD. These findings offer insights into perceptions of OUD treatment in a racially stratified sample and serve as a foundation for future educational materials that target MOUD preferences in the general public.

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The Association Between Depression and Alcohol Use Among Pregnant Adults in the USA

Journal: Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 2024, doi: 10.1007/s00737-023-01417-x

Authors: Madison Chapman, Gretchen Bandoli, & Shira M. Goldenberg


Background: The prevalence of alcohol use among pregnant women aged 18-44 years old increased in recent years. The influence of mental health issues on an individual’s likelihood to use alcohol during pregnancy has not been thoroughly investigated. This study will examine the association between experiencing a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year and past-month alcohol use among pregnant women using the 2011-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Methods: Pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 44 years old were included in the study for analysis. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to examine the association between past-year MDE and past-month alcohol use adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, marital status, and employment status. Additional logistic regression analysis was performed to investigate whether this relationship differed by trimester of pregnancy.

Results: A total of 6745 participants were included in the analytic sample. The prevalence of past-year MDE and past-month alcohol use was 7.67% and 9.15% respectively. Logistic regression analysis showed past-year MDE was significantly associated with past-month alcohol use in pregnant women adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, marital status, and employment status (aOR = 1.96; 95% CI, 1.34-2.87). This relationship became stronger in second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Conclusions: This study showed a positive association between MDE and past-month alcohol use among pregnant women, with strongest effect estimates in the third trimester. These findings may inform approaches for improved screening guidelines and health education for individuals who may be at higher risk of prenatal alcohol use.

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