Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Marijuana Use: Current Issues and New Research Directions

Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Marijuana Use: Current Issues and New Research Directions

Article excerpt

Due to recent evidence of the increasing frequency of marijuana use among adolescents and young adults, and due to the many remaining research issues regarding this drug, it is appropriate to summarize some of the important data about marijuana and to suggest some directions for research and service. This article first provides a review of the history, botany, active ingredients, effects, and negative consequences of marijuana use. Next, prevention and cessation of marijuana use are discussed. Finally, this paper provides a selective examination of current issues in marijuana research. Several salient issues are highlighted including its preference among certain subgroups (high risk youth and ethnic differences), its relations with illegal behavior (marijuana use and driving, current marijuana-related legislation, and marijuana use and violence), and its recent portrayal in the media.

Introduction Much has been written about marijuana use, including its economic and medicinal functions (e.g., Bloomquist, 1971; Rossi, 1993; Stafford, 1977), negative consequences, and prevention or cessation (e.g., Hansen et al. 1988; Stephens, Roffman, and Simpson 1994; Swan 1994). During the last 50 years, several legal, socio- environmental, or educational interventions to reduce marijuana use have been implemented (e.g., Hawkins et al. 1992). However, very recently, Lloyd Johnston and colleagues (Johnston et al. 1994) provided a news release from their Monitoring the Future project that indicated a significant national-level increase in use of marijuana by teens. The percentage of high school seniors reporting use of marijuana in the last 30 days rose from 11.9% in the 1992-93 school year to 15.5% in the 1993-94 school year (Johnston et al. 1994), and self-reports of use continue to rise. Also, over that same time period, the prevalence rate of 30-day use stabilized among young adults after a previous gradual decline in use prevalence. This recent apparent change in the trend of marijuana use prevalence is stimulating new research and intervention efforts at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention [CSAP] 1995; Swan 1995). As we document below, marijuana use remains a substantial problem warranting continued research and intervention work.

To help guide future research and interventions in the area, the present article summarizes the history and current knowledge of marijuana use, and then highlights research on etiology, prevention, and cessation interventions. Research on both adolescents and adults is presented. Also, six research directions are suggested that may contribute to helping curb future increases in abuse of marijuana. First of all, marijuana use may be of relatively high prevalence in certain subpopulations, and the greatest growth in use may be found in these populations. Also, marijuana use consequences logically would be concentrated in such populations. Thus, two research directions that are discussed include marijuana as the illicit drug of choice among high risk youth and adults (e.g., Sussman, Dent, Stacy, Simon, Galaif, Moss, Craig, and Johnson 1995), and whether or not marijuana use is more highly concentrated in some ethnic groups compared to others (e.g., Cockerham and Alster 1983). Second, a very recent trend is toward a policy of criminalization of marijuana use. Changes in policy may, in part, be a reaction to recent evidence that more reckless drivers and adult and juvenile arrestees are testing positive for marijuana than for cocaine or other illicit drugs (Brookoff et al. 1994; National Institute of Justice 1993). Thus, three other research directions that are discussed include marijuana use and driving, new marijuana-related legislation, and marijuana use and violence. Finally, suggestion has been made that the media has abandoned its anti-drug use attitudes of the recent past, which may have led to recent increased prevalence of use (e.g., Reuters News Service June 22, 1994; Seal 1993). …

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