Use of cannabis

Norwegian drug policy has changed substantially in recent years and there are ongoing discussions about decriminalizing the use of drugs. Cannabis has a unique position among illegal drugs, with the by far highest number of users. How does cannabis use change during adolescence and young adulthood?

Use of cannabis graph

Figure 1 shows that over time, about one out of three has used cannabis. Only few had used cannabis in early adolescence, whereas we see steepening of the curve towards the end of the teenage years and into the 20s, before it flattens out.

Figure 2 displays how many used cannabis within the last year. Here, the pattern is even clearer: The peak of the curve is found between ages 18-24. At around age 30 the curve drops substantially. It is far less common to use cannabis at age 30 or older. Moreover, a large majority has used cannabis only a few times.

Figure 3 provides information about the percentage of those who used cannabis 10 times or more within the last year. In this figure, the age distribution is about the same as in the previous figure, but the percentage of people with this pattern of use is much lower. As with the previous figure we see a peak in the early 20s. Notice however that only about 3 % report about cannabis use as frequently as 10 times or more. Many young people will experiment with cannabis, but only a small minority develop more extensive patterns of use. We have repeatedly written about cannabis use among young people by using data from the Young in Norway Study, and our results have contributed to the debate of how Norwegian drug policy reforms.