Importance: Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is increasing among US adults. Few national studies have addressed the role of medical cannabis laws (MCLs) and recreational cannabis laws (RCLs) in these increases, particularly in patient populations with high rates of CUD risk factors. Objective: To quantify the role of MCL and RCL enactment in the increases in diagnosed CUD prevalence among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients from 2005 to 2019. Design, Setting, and Participants: Staggered-adoption difference-in-difference analyses were used to estimate the role of MCL and RCL in the increases in prevalence of CUD diagnoses, fitting a linear binomial regression model with fixed effects for state, categorical year, time-varying cannabis law status, state-level sociodemographic covariates, and patient age group, sex, and race and ethnicity. Patients aged 18 to 75 years with 1 or more VHA primary care, emergency department, or mental health visit and no hospice/palliative care within a given calendar year were included. Time-varying yearly state control covariates were state/year rates from American Community Survey data: percentage male, Black, Hispanic, White, 18 years or older, unemployed, income below poverty threshold, and yearly median household income. Analysis took place between February to December 2022. Main Outcomes and Measures: As preplanned, International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification, ninth and tenth revisions, CUD diagnoses from electronic health records were analyzed. Results: The number of individuals analyzed ranged from 3 234 382 in 2005 to 4 579 994 in 2019. Patients were largely male (94.1% in 2005 and 89.0% in 2019) and White (75.0% in 2005 and 66.6% in 2019), with a mean (SD) age of 57.0 [14.4] years. From 2005 to 2019, adjusted CUD prevalences increased from 1.38% to 2.25% in states with no cannabis laws (no CLs), 1.38% to 2.54% in MCL-only enacting states, and 1.39% to 2.56% in RCL-enacting states. Difference-in-difference results indicated that MCL-only enactment was associated with a 0.05% (0.05-0.06) absolute increase in CUD prevalence, ie, that 4.7% of the total increase in CUD prevalence in MCL-only enacting states could be attributed to MCLs, while RCL enactment was associated with a 1.12% (95% CI, 0.10-0.13) absolute increase in CUD prevalence, ie, that 9.8% of the total increase in CUD prevalence in RCL-enacting states could be attributed to RCLs. The role of RCL in the increases in CUD prevalence was greatest in patients aged 65 to 75 years, with an absolute increase of 0.15% (95% CI, 0.13-0.17) in CUD prevalence associated with RCLs, ie, 18.6% of the total increase in CUD prevalence in that age group. Conclusions and Relevance: In this study of VHA patients, MCL and RCL enactment played a significant role in the overall increases in CUD prevalence, particularly in older patients. However, consistent with general population studies, effect sizes were relatively small, suggesting that cumulatively, laws affected cannabis attitudes diffusely across the country or that other factors played a larger role in the overall increases in adult CUD. Results underscore the need to screen for cannabis use and CUD and to treat CUD when it is present.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health