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Marijuana may rank behind only CAFFEINE, alcohol, and NICOTINE as the most widely used drug in the world. It is estimated that between 200 and 300 million people use this material in one way or another. In the United States alone, probably some 20 to 30 million people have used the drug, although the number of regular users is probably far less, but still a few million.
In the United States, marijuana is a drug preferred by young people; the rate of marijuana use is therefore followed among schoolchildren to estimate changing trends. Survey responses of highschool students, concerning marijuana, show very wide variations. Overall, 3 to 17 percent (median 12%) reported at least a single use of marijuana during the preceding thirty days. Such use is relatively low compared with that of smoking at least one cigarette, 9 to 37 percent (median 31%), or having at least one drink of alcohol, 28 to 64 percent (median 54%). Thus, it would appear that marijuana is not nearly as widely used as two of our three national drugs. Although this data indicates a trend toward decreased use of and greater concern about marijuana compared with nicotine and alcohol, this pattern has not held long enough to establish a true trend; it may be simply a minor blip.
A number of factors seem to contribute to use of marijuana among young people. Being male, using cigarettes and alcohol, and becoming delinquent are predisposing factors. Coming from a broken home and performing poorly in school are also predictive factors. Among adolescents in Australia and New Zealand, use of stimulants, HALLUCINOGENS, NARCOTICS, and SEDATIVES was virtually limited to those young people who used marijuana. Overall, it appears that school factors are less predictive of Cannabis use than are other social factors.