Most Adults Who Use Marijuana Smoke It

Gillian Schauer, PhD, MPH Lead author and Contractor CDC’s Office on Smoking and Interview with:
Gillian Schauer, PhD, MPH
Lead author and Contractor
CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Schauer:
Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illicit drug in the United States. State-level policy change legalizing marijuana or one of its constituents for recreational or medical use is increasing. Currently, 23 states and DC have legalized medical use of marijuana. Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational and medical use of marijuana.

  • This paper helps fill two important knowledge gaps. It describes how US adults are using marijuana—for example, whether they smoke it, eat it, or use it in a vaporizer—and it describes whether they report using it for medical reasons or for recreational reasons, or both. Data come from the 2014 Summer Styles national consumer online panel survey (sample size of 4,269 adults), and have been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
  • Nationally, marijuana is primarily consumed in combusted (smoked) form. In 2014, among adults who used marijuana in the past 30 days, 92.1% of adults said they smoked it, 16.1% ate or drank it, and 7.6% used a vaporizer or other electronic device.
  • Among adults who used marijuana in the past 30 days, 10.5% say they used it only for medical reasons, 53.4% used it only for recreational reasons, and 36.1% used it for both.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Schauer:

  • While other ways of using marijuana exist, nationally, most adults who currently use marijuana are smoking it. Smoking anything can cause respiratory complications.
  • One in ten adult marijuana users reported using marijuana only for medical reasons, just over half reported using it only for recreational reasons, and just over one-third reported using marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Schauer:

  • Because state-based policies legalizing marijuana are increasing, and because the impact of mode of use of marijuana on health risks use are uncertain, continued research on mode of use and reasons for use is needed.
  • Further epidemiologic, toxicologic, and clinical studies in humans and animals are needed to better understand the variable impacts of marijuana ingestion based on mode of use


Toking, Vaping, and Eating for Health or Fun: Marijuana Use Patterns in Adults, U.S., 2014
Schauer, Gillian L. et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Published Online: August 12, 2015
Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof

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Gillian Schauer, PhD, MPH (2015). Most Adults Who Use Pot Smoke It 

Last Updated on August 19, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD