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Sociodemographic factors impact veterans’ risk for cannabis use disorder

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August 24, 2021

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Disclosures: Browne does not disclose any relevant financial information. Please refer to the study for all relevant financial information from the other authors.

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According to a survey published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, vulnerable subgroups of veterans were at increased risk for cannabis use disorders and non-medical use.

“With cannabis use becoming more legal and accepted, nationally representative data are needed to understand cannabis use among veterans, including patterns of frequent use (e.g., daily use) and cannabis use disorder, and to identify high risk subgroups “, Kendall C. Browne, PhD, of the Center of Excellence in Addiction Treatment and Education at Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania, and colleagues wrote.

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“In civilian samples, cannabis use and cannabis use disorders are more likely to be associated with other substance and psychiatric disorders – for example, PTSD and anxiety and mood disorders – and can worsen their outcomes,” they continued. “Such disorders are overrepresented among veterans.”

The researchers aimed to assess the prevalence of cannabis use in the past year and in life, frequent use, and cannabis use disorder among veterans; related demographics, drug use disorders, and psychiatric disorders affecting these outcomes; and the role that government medical marijuana laws can play in differences in cannabis use and the prevalence of use disorders. They analyzed the data from 3,119 U.S. veterans who responded to the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III from 2012 to 2013. Browne and colleagues calculated weighted prevalence estimates. In addition, they used logistic regression analysis to test correlations between non-medical cannabis use and cannabis use disorder with demographic and clinical factors, and assessed whether prevalence differed based on state legalization status.

The results showed prevalence estimates for cannabis use over the past year and cannabis use disorders of 7.3% and 1.8%, and corresponding lifetime prevalence estimates of 32.5% and 5.7%. Non-medical cannabis users had prevalence estimates for the prevalence of cannabis use disorders of 24.4% and 17.4%, respectively, in the past year and during their lifetime. Younger age, male sex, being unmarried, lower income, and residing in a state with medical marijuana laws served as socio-demographic correlates of non-medical cannabis use and use disorder. Browne and colleagues found a link between non-medical cannabis use and most of the psychiatric and substance use disorders studied.

“Such results underscore the importance of ongoing research examining the impact of changing marijuana laws on our country’s veterans,” the researchers wrote. “These findings are also important in communicating to policy makers, health professionals who may need to consider cannabis screening and intervention services when caring for veterans, and veterans themselves so that they are well informed about the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use are .”

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