DefinitionPercentage of adults (18+, 18-25, 26+ years of age) who reported having used marijuana in the past month on the [https://nsduhweb.rti.org/respweb/homepage.cfm National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)].
NumeratorWeighted number of adults (18+, 18-25, 26+) who reported having used marijuana in the past month on the NSDUH.
DenominatorWeighted number of adults (18+, 18-25, 26+) with complete and valid responses on the NSDUH to the question of having used marijuana in the past month.
Data Interpretation IssuesThe National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is a nationally standardized survey that has been performed since 1971. The NSDUH is completed annually using a sample from the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population 12 years of age and older. In 1999, the sample design expanded to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2002, the name of the survey was changed from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) to the NSDUH. Information on background and methodology of the NSDUH, managed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), can be found at: [https://nsduhweb.rti.org/respweb/project_description.html].
Recent data are predominantly from the 2-year averages of NSDUH surveys from Population Data - NSDUH at: [https://www.samhsa.gov/data/population-data-nsduh/reports?tab=33]. Historic data with maps and data downloads are available from the small area estimates website for state and national NSDUH surveys at: [http://pdas.samhsa.gov/saes/state].
NSDUH obtains information on 10 categories of illicit drugs: marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and methamphetamine, as well as the misuse of prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. Changes in 2015 in the measurement for 7 of the 10 illicit drug categories--hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamine, and the misuse of prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives--may have affected the comparability of the measurement of these illicit drugs.^1^
1. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. [http://www.samhsa.gov/data/]. Accessed February 14, 2017.
Why Is This Important?Personal recreational marijuana use and possession was legalized in Alaska in February 2015.^2^ Based on surveys conducted in 2015 and 2016, an estimated 134,000 (23.0%) Alaskans aged 12 and older used marijuana in the past year, and 93,000 (16.0%) used marijuana in the past month.^3^ Both of these percentages increased significantly during 2002-2016, suggesting a rising trend of regular marijuana use among Alaskans.^3^ Although marijuana affects people differently, common effects include a happy, relaxed feeling, delayed reaction times, dizziness, confusion and anxiety, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.^2^ Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and users who smoke marijuana daily or near daily may develop respiratory problems such as bronchitis, tissue damage in the airways of the lungs, and possibly lung cancer.^2^ Regular marijuana use may also be associated with depression and other mental health problems, such as anxiety and psychosis.^2^ As a result, it is important to maintain current information on marijuana use and its health effects to ensure that all Alaskans and visitors to Alaska who choose to use marijuana do so safely and responsibly.^2^
2. State of Alaska, Division of Public Health. Get the facts about marijuana. [http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Director/Pages/marijuana/facts.aspx]. Accessed May 18, 2017.
3. State of Alaska, Division of Public Health. Data and statistics: Marijuana use in Alaska and the United States. [http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Director/Pages/marijuana/data.aspx]. Accessed May 18, 2017.
How Are We Doing?Marijuana use in the past year and the past month were consistently highest among adults aged 18-25 years. In 2015-2016, the percentage of Alaskans aged 18-25 years who reported using marijuana in the past year was more than double the percentage for Alaskans aged 26+ years (41.9% compared to 20.1%). Additionally, perceptions of great risk of smoking marijuana once a month were significantly lower in 2015-2016 for the 18-25 age group than for adults aged 18+ or 26+ years (12.0% compared to 18.1% and 19.2%, respectively).
During 2002-2003 to 2015-2016, perceptions of great risk of smoking marijuana once a month among adults aged 18+ years decreased significantly from 27.9% to 18.1%, suggesting
a decreasing perception of health risk in occasional marijuana use across the survey years among all Alaskan adults.
How Do We Compare With the U.S.?Marijuana use was significantly higher in Alaska than the U.S. in all three adult age groupings across all surveys. Concomitantly, perceptions of great risk of smoking marijuana once a month were significantly lower in Alaska than the U.S.
What Is Being Done?The Alaska Division of Public Health launched an education campaign designed to educate Alaskans on what marijuana legalization means for them and for the state. The [http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Director/Pages/marijuana/default.aspx website] contains background information on marijuana and its health effects; resources for parents and adults to protect youth from marijuana; information on marijuana laws, including laws surrounding marijuana and driving; tips to recognize when you are using too much marijuana; data and statistics on marijuana use in Alaska and the U.S.; and other public education materials.
Evidence-based PracticesSAMHSA maintains a website that collects the latest in substance abuse prevention evidence based practices. The link to the information can be found here: [http://www.samhsa.gov/ebp-web-guide/substance-abuse-prevention].
Health Program InformationThe State of Alaska Epidemiologic Profile on Substance Use, Abuse and Dependency is available at: [http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/injury/Documents/sa/SubstanceAbuseEpiProfile_2013.pdf]. This profile provides a more detailed report on the state of substance use and abuse in Alaska.