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Trends in Cannabis Use Disorder Diagnoses in the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, 2005-2019.
Hasin DS, Saxon AJ, Malte C, Olfson M, Keyes KM, Gradus JL, Cerdá M, Maynard CC, Keyhani S, Martins SS, Fink DS, Livne O, Mannes Z, Wall MM. Trends in Cannabis Use Disorder Diagnoses in the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, 2005-2019. The American journal of psychiatry. 2022 Oct 1; 179(10):748-757.
In the United States, adult cannabis use has increased over time, but less information is available on time trends in cannabis use disorder. The authors used Veterans Health Administration (VHA) data to examine change over time in cannabis use disorder diagnoses among veterans, an important population subgroup, and whether such trends differ by age group ( < 35 years, 35-64 years, = 65 years), sex, or race/ethnicity.
VHA electronic health records from 2005 to 2019 (range of Ns per year, 4,403,027-5,797,240) were used to identify the percentage of VHA patients seen each year with a cannabis use disorder diagnosis (ICD-9-CM, January 1, 2005-September 30, 2015; ICD-10-CM, October 1, 2015-December 31, 2019). Trends in cannabis use disorder diagnoses were examined by age and by race/ethnicity and sex within age groups. Given the transition in ICD coding, differences in trends were tested within two periods: 2005-2014 (ICD-9-CM) and 2016-2019 (ICD-10-CM).
In 2005, the percentages of VHA patients diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in the < 35, 35-64, and = 65 year age groups were 1.70%, 1.59%, and 0.03%, respectively; by 2019, the percentages had increased to 4.84%, 2.86%, and 0.74%, respectively. Although the prevalence of cannabis use disorder was consistently higher among males than females, between 2016 and 2019, the prevalence increased more among females than males in the < 35 year group. Black patients had a consistently higher prevalence of cannabis use disorder than other racial/ethnic groups, and increases were greater among Black than White patients in the < 35 year group in both periods.
Since 2005, diagnoses of cannabis use disorder have increased substantially among VHA patients, as they have in the general population and other patient populations. Possible explanations warranting investigation include decreasing perception of risk, changing laws, increasing cannabis potency, stressors related to growing socioeconomic inequality, and use of cannabis to self-treat pain. Clinicians and the public should be educated about the increases in cannabis use disorder in general in the United States, including among patients treated at the VHA.