Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Cannabis Use Disorder Rising Among Veterans, Study Finds

The prevalence of U.S. veterans diagnosed with cannabis use disorder more than doubled between 2005 and 2019, with the greatest increases reported among those with bipolar disorder and psychotic spectrum disorders, according to a report published today in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

People with psychiatric disorders are known to be at an increased risk for substance use, but few studies have compared cannabis use disorder in people with and without other psychiatric disorders, wrote Ofir Livne, M.D., M.P.H., of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and colleagues.

For the current study, the researchers analyzed electronic health records from the Veterans Health Administration collected from 2005 to 2014 and 2016 to 2019. They compared trends in the prevalence of cannabis use disorder diagnoses among those with depressive, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, bipolar, or psychotic spectrum disorders with those without any of these disorders. The primary outcome was a cannabis use disorder diagnosis made by a provider during at least one outpatient or inpatient encounter within a calendar year.

Overall, the prevalence of diagnoses for cannabis use disorder among veterans increased from 0.85% in 2005 to 1.92% in 2019. Among patients with any psychiatric disorder, the prevalence increased from 2.48% in 2005 to 4.68% in 2019. The increase in cannabis use disorder diagnoses among those without psychiatric diagnoses was much lower from 0.35% in 2005 to 0.57% in 2019.

In both time periods examined, diagnoses of cannabis use disorder were the most prevalent in patients with bipolar disorder and/or psychotic spectrum disorder, the authors reported.

“U.S. adults have become increasingly likely to perceive cannabis use as harmless and useful for treating conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression,” Livne and colleagues wrote. “Consequently, greater public health and clinical efforts are needed to systematically monitor risky cannabis use and cannabis use disorder and to develop preventive and harm reduction strategies in these cannabis-using populations.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Experts Clear the Smoke on Cannabis Use Disorder.”

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