Does medical cannabis legalization reduce the number of young adults seeking treatment for cannabis use disorder?

Authors: Thomas McKeon*, Temple University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: CUD, cannabis, treatment, modeling
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In recent years, the legalization of cannabis has expanded among U.S. states and cannabis use has increased while treatment admissions for cannabis-related use disorder (CUD) have decreased. This research aims to examine state-level prevalence of cannabis use in the past month for young adults using National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data and treatment admissions data from TEDs-A for years 2008 to 2017. These two datasets allow for comparing longitudinal trends in the outcome: the proportion of % reported young adult users of cannabis that are seeking treatment for cannabis use disorder, with no prior admissions and non-criminal referral. A difference-in-difference methodology was employed to examine trends, by comparing pre-Medical Marijuana Legalization (MML) and post-MML enactment in the United States. Results consistently observed a general decrease across all states in the study period. There is a significant decrease when comparing MML vs non-MML status. This holds true when adjusting for Medicaid enrollment, percent uninsured, socioeconomic disadvantage index, percent white, and density of treatment facilities. A state's recreational marijuana history has an effect on the outcome. This may indicate that states which currently have no legal cannabis policy may see those seeking treatment decrease if they enact MML in the future. These findings may shed light on an unmet need, or changes in how cannabis users define their CUD and their need to seek treatment.

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