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Marijuana use disorder: co-occurrence, diagnosis and treatment

Marijuana use disorder: co-occurrence, diagnosis and treatment

Marijuana use disorder, a common problem in the United States now, is often associated with other substance use disorders and behavioral problems, which largely go untreated, according to a new study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in March 2016, found that 2.5 percent of adults  (6 million people) in the U.S. experienced marijuana disorder in the past year, while 6.3 percent of people met the diagnostic criteria for the disorder at some point of their lives.

The study, led by Bridget Grant, Ph.D., of the NIAAA Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry, examined data about marijuana use from the 2012-2013 wave of NIAAA’s National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). This was the largest study ever conducted on the co-occurrence of alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions.

Study findings

More than 36,000 U.S. adults were interviewed on substance use, and related psychiatric conditions by the team. The study also interlinked the NESARC data with the diagnostic criteria for marijuana use disorder from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In the DSM-5, however, marijuana dependence and abuse are combined as one and individuals must meet at least two symptoms out of the 11, to be diagnosed with this disorder. Severity of this disorder also ranges from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the symptoms met by an individual.

The new data, which was somehow consistent with previous findings, showed that marijuana use disorder is two times more prevalent in men than women. In fact, young people are more prone to this disorder than people in the age group of 45 or above.

The symptoms of the disorder are mainly visible during late adolescence or in early 20s. The symptoms might reappear again within a period of three to four years. The study also highlighted that marijuana use disorders constantly co-occur with other mental disorders and other substance use problem.

The study also highlighted that people with this disorder experience mental disability that might persist even after decrease in the symptoms. The researchers pose an urgency of identifying effective curative interventions that help in both diagnosis, prevention and treatment of marijuana use disorder and other co-occurring problems.

Moreover, they are of the opinion that awareness should be generated among individuals regarding the ill effects of marijuana, given the current status of its medical usage and shift in beliefs about the risks associated with it.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., said, “These findings demonstrate that people with marijuana use disorder are vulnerable to other mental health disorders.” She also said that the study emphasizes the need of evidence-based interventions to treat individuals with co-occurring disorders.

Way ahead

The combined use of marijuana and alcohol pose a heightened risk to both mental and physical health. Further probe is needed to understand the consequences of the combined use. In fact, psychiatric conditions are also associated with this disorder, which remains untreated.

The researchers also reported that only about 7 percent of people with past-year marijuana use disorder receive any marijuana-specific treatment, compared with slightly less than 14 percent of people with lifetime marijuana use disorder.

If you are suffering from addiction along with some other mental health problem, contact the Florida Dual Diagnosis Helpline for the most reliable help for co-occurring disorders. You may also call our 24/7 helpline at 866-337-7631 for the best diagnostic treatment options available in your vicinity.