Adolescents in Substance Abuse Treatment Report Using Someone Else's Medical Marijuana

Reports new study in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Washington D.C., July 31, 2012 – A study published in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that diverted medical marijuana use among adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse is very common.

Study participants from two adolescent substance abuse treatment programs in the Denver metropolitan area were asked questions about their medical marijuana use.121 of 164 adolescents (73.8%) reported using medical marijuana that had been recommended for someone else, also known as diverted medical marijuana, a median of 50 times. In the study, adolescents who used medical marijuana began using marijuana regularly at a younger age, and showed more marijuana abuse/dependence and conduct disorder symptoms than adolescents who did not use medical marijuana. Additionally, most of the adolescents rated smoking marijuana overall as having slight or no risk.

Recent state and federal policy changes have allowed for more widespread legalized medical marijuana use in Colorado. At the time of the study only 41 adolescents in the state held valid registry identification cards for medical marijuana, which suggests that adolescents using medical marijuana are more likely to have obtained it from adult registered users than from peers. The study also calls into question the adequacy of the safeguards meant to prevent medical marijuana use by individuals to whom it was not recommended, adolescents in particular. As the study authors note, in Colorado, medical marijuana is not handled like other medications that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): once approved for medical marijuana usage, individuals can purchase different amounts or even grow a personal supply.

Lead author Dr. Salomonsen-Sautel said of the study, “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. Our results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana to adolescents.”

In a related editorial, Dr. Alessandra Kazura raises questions about the safety and efficacy of marijuana as a medical treatment and discusses the perceptions adolescents may have about marijuana and its potential risks.

The article “Medical Marijuana Use Among Adolescents in Substance Abuse Treatment” by Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel, Joseph T. Sakai, Christian Thurstone, Robin Corley, Christian Hopfer, (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2012.04.004) appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 51, Issue 7 (July 2012), published by Elsevier. Dr. Kazura’s related editorial, “Medical Marijuana and Teens: Does an Adjective Make a Difference?” appears in the same issue.

This study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA-011015) with additional support provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism T32AA007464 and DA-021913.


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Notes for editors
Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Mary Billingsley at +1 202 966 7300 x105 or mbillingsley@jaacap.org. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel at + 1 303 724 3188 or stacy.salomonsen-sautel@ucdenver.edu.

All articles published in JAACAP are embargoed until 3PM ET of the day they are published as corrected proofs online. Articles cannot be publicized as accepted abstracts. Contents of the publication should not be released to or by the media or government agencies before this date.

About JAACAP
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

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Media contact
Mary Billingsley
JAACAP Editorial Office
+1 202 966 7300 x105
mbillingsley@jaacap.org