Should pediatricians be concerned about increasing rates of cannabis use disorder?

At the 2022 Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, Samuel Akaakole Mensah shared results of a 10-year study on pediatric hospitalization trends for cannabis use disorder.

Adolescents have been experimenting with marijuana for more than 50 years now, and considered the most used federal illegal drug, with some 18% of Americans using it at least once in 2019. With 37 states having legalized it for medicinal use and 18 states legalizing cannabis for recreational use, no doubt more studies will start to look at what this means in terms of affecting adolescents abuse of the drug.

For now, though, Samuel Akaakole Mensah of Tarkwa Municipal Hospital in Ghana, shared highlights showing that, between 2008 and 2019, 18 states reported an increase in hospitalizations for cannabis use disorder (CUD). “The findings of this study can help policy makers, administrators, and clinicians in the formulation of policies and provision of resources to help identify and provide interventions for CUD in the patient setting,” began Mensah.

The term cannabis use disorder was introduced in 2013 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and defined as a substance use disorder characterized by a problematic pattern of marijuana use that leads to clinical significant impairment or distress. Mensah’s study took a cross-sectional analysis of pediatric hospitalizations of adolescents and young adults aged 11 to 20 years within the Kids Inpatient Database (KID), pulling data from 2009, 2012, 2016, and 2019.

Out of 5.57 millions pediatric hospitalizations in this age group, 292,816 were associated with CUD from 2009 to 2019. Hospitalizations for CUD steadily increased during this time period: in 2009, there were a little under 40 per 1000 hospitalizations; by 2019, that number was 90 per 1000. The overwhelming majority of these patients were male (almost 85 males per 1000 hospitalizations, as opposed to 37 per 1000 of females). White and Black CUD patients were roughly the same, about 60 per 1000 for both, and, of the 4 hospital regions, most patients with CUD came from the Northeast (62.5 per 1000) and Midwest (68.9) as opposed to the South (40.8) and the West (49.2).

Mensah and the other investigators concluded that there was a significant increase in CUD among pediatric hospitalizations in adolescents and young adults aged 11 to 21 years. Concluded Mensah, “the implications of these findings on the medical and mental health of children and society at large require further investigation.”

Mensah SA. Trends in cannabis use disorder among pediatric hospitalizations in the United States, 2009-2019. PAS 2022. April 24, 2022. Denver, Colorado.