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Cannabis use disorder: Epidemiology, comorbidity, and pathogenesis

John A Bailey, MD
Robert L DuPont, MD
Scott A Teitelbaum, MD
Section Editor
Andrew J Saxon, MD
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal substance worldwide [1]. Approximately 160 million people or approximately four percent of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64 years have been estimated to use cannabis at least once in the past year.

The psychoactive properties of cannabis are primarily due to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [2]. The THC content of marijuana has increased significantly since the late 1960s from approximately 1 to 5 percent to as much as 10 to 15 percent [3]. This increased potency may contribute to increased rates of cannabis use disorder.

The psychiatric diagnoses, cannabis abuse and cannabis dependence, in DSM-IV-TR were replaced by one diagnosis, cannabis use disorder, in DSM-5 [4]. Although the crosswalk between DSM-IV and DSM-5 disorders is imprecise, cannabis dependence is approximately comparable to cannabis use disorder, moderate to severe subtype, while cannabis abuse is similar to the mild subtype.

The epidemiology, comorbidity, and pathogenesis of cannabis use, disorder in adults will be reviewed here. Other issues related to cannabis use disorder are discussed separately. Treatment of medical conditions such as chemotherapy-induced emesis and cancer pain with cannabinoids are discussed separately. (See "Cannabis use disorder: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "Characteristics of antiemetic drugs" and "Characteristics of antiemetic drugs", section on 'Cannabinoids' and "Cancer pain management: Adjuvant analgesics (coanalgesics)", section on 'Cannabis and cannabinoids' and "Cannabis use disorder: Treatment, prognosis, and long-term medical effects" and "Cannabis (marijuana): Acute intoxication".)


Slang terms used for marijuana or cannabis include “pot,” “reefer,” “Mary Jane,” “hash,” “weed,” “hemp,” “blunt,” “ganja,” “roach,” “nail,” and “dube” [5]. Synthetic cannabinoids such as CP-47, 497, JWH-073, and JWH-175 have street names that include “K2,” “spice,” “Zohai,” and “eclipse” [6].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 4, 2016.
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