A recent survey conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Morning Consult sheds light on public perceptions of marijuana, highlighting that Americans consider it significantly less dangerous and addictive compared to other substances. The poll, which also examined attitudes towards technology, provides valuable insights into how cannabis is viewed in relation to well-established substances.
Americans View Marijuana as Safer than Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Opioids
According to the survey, only 38 percent of respondents believe that marijuana is “very or somewhat unsafe.” In contrast, a substantial majority regard cigarettes (84 percent), alcohol (64 percent), prescription opioids (66 percent), non-prescription opioids (75 percent), and vapes (76 percent) as more unsafe. The only category perceived as safer than marijuana is technology, with only 23 percent expressing concerns about its safety.
Cannabis Addiction is Lower Compared to Other Substances
The poll also explored the perceived addictiveness of various substances. Interestingly, 64 percent of participants believe that cannabis can be addictive. However, this number is lower than the figures for cigarettes (87 percent), alcohol (84 percent), prescription opioids (83 percent), non-prescription opioids (74 percent), vapes (81 percent), and technology (75 percent). These results suggest that while Americans acknowledge the potential addictive nature of marijuana, they consider it less addictive than other commonly used substances.
APA President Petros Levounis emphasized the need to address addiction across different behaviors. While the dangers and addictiveness of cigarettes are widely recognized, efforts must be made to prevent and educate individuals about other potential addictive behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and excessive technology use.
The survey also delved into public perceptions of addiction causes and treatment. While 47 percent attributed addiction to “personal weakness,” a significant majority of 76 percent recognized addiction as a medical condition. Moreover, an overwhelming 93 percent believed that substance use disorders can be treated, and 76 percent considered addiction to be preventable.
The findings further indicated that 71 percent of Americans feel confident in their ability to support someone struggling with addiction. However, awareness of the opioid anti-overdose drug naloxone remains relatively low, with only 58 percent claiming familiarity and a mere 35 percent knowing how to access it in case of an overdose.
To address these issues, the APA plans to launch a public awareness campaign focused initially on vaping, later transitioning to opioids, alcohol, and technology. Notably, the campaign currently does not encompass education about cannabis.
The survey, conducted from April 20-22, involved interviews with 2,201 adults and holds a margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.
These findings align with a national shift in public perceptions of alcohol and marijuana, as more states legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. President Joe Biden’s recent proclamation on Juneteenth signifies his commitment to promoting cannabis reform and addressing racial discrimination. Also, the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) recently made a significant recommendation to eliminate marijuana from the organization’s list of prohibited substances. Seeking to prioritize athlete health and well-being, the committee is actively engaging NCAA members to gather input and drive positive change.
Increased awareness of the potential harms associated with alcohol and educational efforts likely contribute to the evolving views on these substances. Additionally, previous surveys have shown that individuals are turning to marijuana as an alternative to alcohol and various prescription medications.
For instance, during “Dry January,” approximately 20 percent of participants who abstained from alcohol reported using cannabis as a substitute during the month. Another survey from last year revealed that a higher number of Americans openly admitted to consuming marijuana or cannabis-infused edibles compared to those who reported smoking cigarettes in the past week.
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