Survey finds cannabis use increased in Ontario one year before legalization

Cannabis use in Ontario increased a year before legalization—especially among millennials and seniors, a new survey has found.

The survey, done by the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), found that the number of adults who reported previous-year use of cannabis increased from 15.7 % in 2016 to 19.4 % in 2017.

The number is a record high following a steady year-over-year increase in cannabis use among Ontarians:

The 2017 figure is more than double the 8.7 % who reported using cannabis within a year in 1996.

Since 1996, cannabis use among those aged 18-29 years old, also known as millennials, has also dramatically increased from 18.3% in 1996 to 39.1% in 2017.

The rise was even more drastic for seniors aged 50 years or old. Their use went up from 1.4% in 1998 to 11.4% in 2017.

A growing interest in the use of cannabis for pain control among seniors could explain its greater use in the age group.

The survey, called the Monitor, has been conducted every two years since 1977. It tracks substance use and mental health in Ontario, surveying more than 2,800 adults aged 18 and older to get a representation of the over two million residents in Ontario.

More people are driving high

CAMH’s survey also looked at how many Ontarians drive while high, finding the number who said they used cannabis an hour before driving has doubled from 1.3% in 2012 to 2.6% in 2017. While it may not seem like a large percentage, it still accounts for around 250,000 drivers in Ontario.

While those driving potentially under the influence has increased, the number who reported drinking and driving has dropped substantially.

Compared to 13% in 1996, the survey found it has fallen to little over 5% in 2017, likely due to strong public messaging highlighting drunk driving’s dangers, as well as an increase in fines if caught doing it.

Finally, the survey found an increase in the number who reported poor or fair mental health, up from seven per cent in 2016 to 10.1 per cent in 2017. Concerningly, the number who reported suicidal thoughts also nearly doubled from 2.2 per cent in 2016 to four per cent in 2017.

CAMH found millenials and Gen Z are more likely to engage in “problematic use” of cannabis for recreational purposes and report psychological distress.

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