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Marijuana Treatment Admission Statistics

The new numbers are out from SAMHSA, so expect a variety of efforts to get the press to report that marijuana is so dangerous that more and more people are being admitted to treatment for marijuana addiction.

Which, of course, is a complete misreading of the facts (or lie, if you prefer).

Some preliminary reporting is now coming out:

Marijuana admissions rose from 13 percent of total admissions in 1998 to 17 percent in 2008…

But as Paul Armentano notes:

In 2008, 57 percent of persons referred to treatment for marijuana as their ‘primary substance of abuse,’ were referred by the criminal justice system. For adolescents, nearly half (48 percent) were referred via the criminal justice system.

By contrast, criminal justice referrals accounted for just 37 percent of the overall total of drug treatment admissions in 2008.

“Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all admissions combined to be self-referred to treatment,” the study found.

Of course, this is not news to us. But I’ve gone through and re-analyzed the data, using the new 2008 figures, cross-referencing primary substance with principal source of referral. Here are the results.

Look at the chart on that page and you’ll immediately see that for marijuana, not only were 57% of those admitted referred by criminal justice, but only 15% were self-referred (including individual, family, friends). And that 15% also includes people who voluntarily signed up for treatment so it would look better to the judge.

For comparison (just showing the two referral categories for a select set of drugs):

  Individual Criminal Justice
Alcohol 30.2 39.3
Cocaine 32.6 32.6
Marijuana 15.0 57.0
Heroin 55.6 14.7

So when the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy spends an entire chapter talking about the need for more treatment opportunities and better treatment opportunities for those in trouble, the drug czar’s office should be taking the blame for policies that lead to wasting a significant portion of the treatment resources that currently exist.

Remember that

According to federal figures compiled by SAMHSA in 2009, some 37 percent of the estimated 288,000 thousand people who entered drug treatment for cannabis in 2007 had not reported using it in the 30 days previous to their admission. Another 16 percent of those admitted said that they’d used marijuana three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission.

If any treatment professionals are reading this post, I’d love to hear your reactions to this data. I would also like it if you could answer a question I’ve been wanting to ask:

If you accept criminal justice referrals, how many of them (where payment was no problem) have you refused because they didn’t actually need treatment, but were there simply to avoid punishment?

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6 comments to Marijuana Treatment Admission Statistics

  • Nick

    Another scary and great post Pete.
    With the drug war, it’s Halloween every day.
    Thanks.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Addiction Counseling, Adam Edvalson. Adam Edvalson said: Marijuana Treatment Admission Statistics: … of efforts to get the press to report that marijuana is so dangerous… http://bit.ly/9gf9Vw […]

  • digging into the weeds is not as important as pointing out how few of the millions of pot users actually end up in treatment — forced or otherwise.

    too much effort goes into examining the tree leaves and not enough into fighting the forest fire.

  • Just me.

    Gotta love it. they take our money(taxes=life)so they can treat, arrest/incarcerate us for something we dont want or need treatment or arrest/incarceration for. This is a case for vampires existing.

  • divadab

    I’m so sick of the corrupt lying authoritarian scum whose sole job is to ruin peoples’ lives for doing NO CRIME.

    Government of liars and scoundrels and dominionist brutes. FOr their sake I hope there is a hell, because that’s where they’re going.

  • Dante

    Where have we seen this before? Where have we encountered such backwards logic?

    You know, the whole “tout the war on drugs, then arrest them with pot, then send them to addiction treatment, then gloat about the addiciton treatment statistics supporting the war on drugs” thing?

    You know, the whole “we had to shoot and kill the children because we are on a mission to save the children”?

    You know, the whole “those 25,000 dead people in Mexico’s drug war means we are WINNING”?

    Oh. I remeber now. Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

    It was funny when it wasn’t real.