You may be used to thinking of the United States as a leader in economic might, weaponry, the Internet, and any number of other areas, but we also hold the distinction of being the world's leading consumer of cannabis. That's the finding from the recently released Global Drug Survey 2017 (GDS). Some 69,000 cannabis users took part in the survey, which also covers many other types of drugs.

Here's some of what they reported:

1. Americans get stoned more often than everyone else.

A lot more. More than one third of U.S. respondents said they used pot 300 or more days in the past year, compared to 19 percent for the rest of the world. Conversely, 42 percent of respondents outside the U.S. said they were stoned 10 days or fewer in the year, while only a quarter of Americans could make that claim. Americans were also more likely than other nationalities to report being stoned for 12 hours or more every day, and getting stoned within an hour of waking up.

2. We do it smarter than everyone else.

When it comes to your health, how you get stoned is a very important question. Americans excel on that score. For obvious reasons, the most unhealthful way to consume marijuana is to smoke it mixed with tobacco but 65 percent of the rest of the world's pot users do just that. Only 8 percent of Americans do that though--perhaps the anti-tobacco ads are working. GDS researchers also speculated that our penchant for smoking cannabis in pipes or bongs rather than joints may be part of the reason we wind up with less tobacco mixed with our pot.

We're also more likely than people in other countries except Finland to choose vaping over smoking, or to use concentrates--perhaps because concentrates are largely unavailable outside the U.S., for the moment at least.

3. It doesn't bother us.

Americans may be using stronger pot than people in other countries as well, with 60 percent of us preferring high-potency cannabis, compared with 45 percent in the rest of the world. Despite that, we're less likely than average to seek emergency treatment for cannabis use--0.4 percent of U.S. respondents said they had done so, compared to 0.6 percent in the rest of the world.

Researchers were also surprised to find that, despite our greater-than-average use of cannabis, fewer of us consider it a problem. While 36 percent of cannabis users worldwide say they would like to cut down or quit, only 22 percent of Americans want to do so. "You would expect that given the very high rates of heavy use in our study, that as a population US cannabis users might be more likely to want to cut down," writes DGS founder Adam R. Winstock, MD. In fact, he finds Americans' lack of concern over our cannabis use to be so perplexing that he asks readers for their thoughts on why more of us aren't trying to quit.

Maybe it's that where pot is legal and easily obtained from highly regulated retail stores, you can dose it precisely and produce a predictable effect, just as you can predict the effect that one glass of wine will have on you. With practically no fear of arrest, and no concern about getting higher than you intended, there are few potential unpleasant consequences to using legal pot. And in most states where pot is legal, it's intended to be used as medicine which may account for some people who use cannabis daily and have no desire to stop.

Whatever the reason, we seem to be using pot the right way. "I wish the rest of world would learn how to use cannabis like Americans," Winstock writes. "But maybe just a little less."

Published on: May 31, 2017
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