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Shari Roan, LATimes: More on the marijuana wars

More on the marijuana wars
by Shari Roan, September 8, 2011

Several recent studies suggest a nation growing increasingly enamored of marijuana. Adding to the evidence are statistics released Thursday from the federal government that show an upswing in pot use in the young-adult age group.

The new data, from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, show 8.9% of the U.S. population ages 12 and older are illicit drug users. That is similar to the 2009 rate but slightly higher than the 2008 rate. Marijuana use has increased from 14.4 million users in 2007 to 17.4 million in 2010 (about 6.9% of the population age 12 and older).

Marijuana use rose to 21.5% in the 18-to-25 age group, a significant jump from 2008, the study found.

Officials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which released the report, highlighted the increase in marijuana use and blame it on a growing number of states permitting medical marijuana. Indeed, whether or not medical marijuana is fueling the upswing in usage — and whether marijuana addiction rates are on the rise — is shaping up to be a significant public-health debate.

Other data from the report clarify the major role that leftover or unused pain medication plays in opioid abuse. More than half of people who had abused prescription pain relievers had received the drugs for free from friends or relatives, and only 4.4% had purchased them from a drug dealer.

The survey is based on a nationally representative sample of 67,500 people.

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