Treatment For Cannabis Addiction Decreases In Legal States, But Why?

The war on drugs has been an ongoing disaster for decades. While it was supposed to reduce drug use and addiction, rates of both have only increased over the years.  

Compounding the failed war, new findings from US states with legal recreational cannabis have found that when the drug is legalised and regulated, admissions of young people for cannabis dependence fall. And not just a little bit – quite dramatically!

Legal states

Figures from Washington and Colorado – both of which have legalised recreational cannabis – collected by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration between 2008 and 2017 revealed the surprising findings.

While states with no recreational cannabis laws also saw reductions in youth admissions for cannabis dependence, Colorado and Washington had the biggest decrease

“Recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington was not associated with an increase in admissions to treatment for cannabis use disorder among adolescents. 

“This may be because legalization did not increase adolescent marijuana use, or for a number other reasons. 

“Interestingly, nationally, adolescent treatment admissions for cannabis use disorder have been declining recently, including in Colorado and Washington, even as national marijuana use among adolescents has remained relatively stable,” said the study’s lead author, Jeremy Mennis, to PsyPost.


The study also detailed how the “decline in the rate of Cannabis Use Disorder among youth who regularly use marijuana would be consistent with observations among adults.” The suggestion being that states that have legalised recreational cannabis see overall decreases in rates of cannabis use and addiction.

However, the study also states that it is unclear whether this finding reflects trends in the prevalence of cannabis addiction or, rather, that legalisation leads people to think that cannabis addiction is not that serious and, therefore, are less likely to seek treatment. 

“… national survey data indicates that the perception of marijuana as harmful is declining, and among adults, marijuana use is increasing,” Mennis says.

With this in mind, it’s important to continue monitoring cases of cannabis addiction as well as treatment admissions to learn more about how cannabis legalisation affects usage.

If these counterintuitive early findings are confirmed, it marks another blow to the war on drugs and its prohibitionist supporters. 

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