Statistics on cannabis users skew perceptions of cannabis use. Most statistical surveys of marijuana focus on a single quantitative measurement, “How many people are using?” However, there is a problem; more marijuana use does not necessarily translate into more marijuana users.

The greatest amount of marijuana consumption comes from the heaviest smokers. How many people are using does not give us a clear picture of levels of misuse or abuse.

Examining frequency of use over time provides a picture of not only changes in who is using, but also how individuals are using. Researchers were able to draw some conclusions about the growth in marijuana usage from 2002 through 2011, based on data gathered. After exploring the demographics of this 10-year record of use, they found that “consumption grew primarily because of an increase in the average frequency of use, not just because of an increase in the overall number of users.” 

The driver of consumption turns out to be greater consumption, and that increased consumption is coming from older adults. Those older adults, it turns out, are smoking more pot.

There is also concern over a rise in the concentration of active ingredients in available drugs. In 2012, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 15 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s, according to the data from police records. For a new user, this may mean exposure to higher concentrations of THC, with a greater chance of an adverse or unpredictable reaction. For frequent users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis.

However, the full range of consequences associated with marijuana’s higher potency is not well understood. For example, experienced users may adjust their intake in accordance with the potency or they may be exposing their brains to higher levels overall, or both. Increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use.

Although the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance and it is therefore illegal on a federal level, several states have already legalized medical marijuana or allowed social use. Regardless of public opinion, research shows marijuana may cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health and more relationship problems compared to non-marijuana-using peers.

If you smoke marijuana, perhaps it is time to considering quitting and looking at replacing marijuana use with healthier life choices. The amount of money and time wasted on this habit could probably be better used doing more productive activities.

Consider seeking professional advice on private treatments available for substance abuse and help developing a personal plan to quit. Success is possible with a little effort and help.