Teenagers in substance abuse treatment programs frequently use medical marijuana intended for someone else, according to researchers at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. Their study calls into question the adequacy of safeguards to prevent medical marijuana from being diverted, particularly by adolescents.
“Many high-risk adolescent patients in substance abuse treatment have used diverted medical marijuana on multiple occasions, which implies that substantial diversion is occurring from registered users,” said lead author Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the CU School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology. “Our results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana to adolescents.”
Salomonsen-Sautel and her colleagues looked at two adolescent substance abuse treatment programs in the Denver area, asking 164 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 about their marijuana use. Nearly 74 percent of the teens admitted using medical marijuana intended for someone else. They also reported using medical marijuana a median of 50 times.
The study found that adolescent patients who used medical marijuana started using marijuana regularly at an earlier age, and had more marijuana dependence issues and conduct problems than teens that did not use medical marijuana. Most of them also said there was little or no risk in smoking marijuana.
At the time of the study, only 41 adolescents in Colorado held valid registry identification cards for medical marijuana. This suggests adolescents using medical marijuana have easy access to it and are more likely to get medical marijuana from adult registered users than from their peers.
Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado and in 16 other states, as well as Washington, D.C.Once an individual is approved for medical marijuana in Colorado, they can purchase different amounts or even grow a personal supply.
The CU School of Medicine study, which is being published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.