Almost three-quarters of adolescents in two Colorado substance abuse treatment programs reported using medical marijuana that was not prescribed to them, according to study results.
“Diverted medical marijuana use among adolescent patients in substance abuse treatment is very common,” study researcher Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel, PhD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told Healio.com.
Salomonsen-Sautel and colleagues calculated the prevalence and frequency of diverted medical marijuana use among 164 adolescent patients aged 14 to 18 years who were enrolled in substance abuse treatment in the Denver metropolitan area. The researchers performed bivariate and multivariate analyses to determine factors related to patients’ use of medical marijuana. A number of measures, including DSM-IV-based criteria, were used to assess substance use patterns, psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses, conduct disorder and family environment.
Results showed that 73.8% of adolescent patients had used someone else’s medical marijuana. Only one patient had a legal medical marijuana registry card. Patients reported using diverted medical marijuana a median of 50 times. Of those who were diagnosed with conduct disorder, 77.4% used medical marijuana vs. 22.6% who did not. Adjusting for sex and race/ethnicity, the researchers found that patients who used medical marijuana had an earlier age of regular marijuana use (adjusted OR=0.79; 95% CI, 0.62-0.99), more marijuana abuse and dependence symptoms (AOR=1.31; 95% CI, 1.13-1.51) and more conduct disorder symptoms (AOR=1.16; 95% CI, 1.01-1.33) vs. those who did not use medical marijuana.
“Medical marijuana use has grown exponentially in Colorado in recent years, as a result of policy changes,” the researchers wrote. "The results of this study … support that adolescents in substance abuse treatment often and readily obtain diverted medical marijuana. This suggests that substantial diversion is occurring from adult registered users and that the current system does not adequately guard against diversion to adolescents.”
Disclosure: The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with additional support provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.