Natural course of cannabis use disorders

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Abstract

Background.

Despite its importance as a public health concern, relatively little is known about the natural course of cannabis use disorders (CUDs). The primary objective of this research was to provide descriptive data on the onset, recovery and recurrence functions of CUDs during the high-risk periods of adolescence, emerging adulthood and young adulthood based on data from a large prospective community sample.

Method.

Probands (n = 816) from the Oregon Adolescent Depression Project (OADP) participated in four diagnostic assessments (T1-T4) between the ages of 16 and 30 years, during which current and past CUDs were assessed.

Results.

The weighted lifetime prevalence of CUDs was 19.1% with an average onset age of 18.6 years. Although gender was not significantly related to the age of initial CUD onset, men were more likely to be diagnosed with a lifetime CUD. Of those diagnosed with a CUD episode, 81.8% eventually achieved recovery during the study period. Women achieved recovery significantly more quickly than men. The recurrence rate (27.7%) was relatively modest, and most likely to occur within the first 36 months following the offset of the first CUD episode. CUD recurrence was uncommon after 72 months of remission and recovery.

Conclusions.

CUDs are relatively common, affecting about one out of five persons in the OADP sample prior to the age of 30 years. Eventual recovery from index CUD episodes is the norm, although about 30% of those with a CUD exhibit a generally persistent pattern of problematic use extending 7 years or longer.

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