Study: Teen Medical Marijuana Use Comes With Risks


People may think that legal medical marijuana is a safe for teens, but a new study says that the use and existence of legal medical marijuana may actually be more harmful in a number of ways — including addiction.

Data shows that teens who legally use medical marijuana are 10 times more likely to say they are addicted to the substance than teens that use it illegally, reports Robert Preidt for Health Day.

 “I think that medical marijuana laws are failed policy and that these data lend support to my position. More youth use medical marijuana that don’t have a card than that have a card,” study author Carol Boyd, a professor in the School of Nursing, said in a University of Michigan news release.

The study, conducted at the University of Michigan, surveyed 4,400 high school seniors. Of those students, 48 possessed a medical marijuana card and 266 said that they use the drug and buy it from dealers illegally.

The researchers also looked for five risk behaviors associated with the use of marijuana which include using the drug more often to get high and using alcohol and prescription pills. They found that teens who bought the drug illegally were least likely to engage in the risky behaviors, while medical marijuana users were at the highest risk of those behaviors.

Due to the legalization of medical marijuana, it has become freely advertised in certain areas, which has been shown to increase use of the drug by teens. In a study of 8,200 students in grades six through eight researchers found that teens who see ads for medical marijuana are twice as likely to use the drug.

22 % of the teens said they have seen at least one ad for marijuana in the past 3 months, reports Preidt. The ads are visible on billboards, newspapers, television, and dispensaries store fronts throughout Southern California, where the study was conducted.

The use of marijuana, whether it is obtained legally or not, is increasingly thought to be a relatively harmless drug among teens.  However, scientific studies show that adolescent users are at a higher risk of negative side effects including hallucinations, paranoia, and triggering a psychotic illness, writes Sue Bailey for CTV News.

“I see more and more cases of substance-induced psychosis,” said Dr. Sinthu Suntharalingam, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “The most common substance that’s abused is cannabis.”

Teens are more susceptible to negative side effects because their brains are still developing. Marijuana affects the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is how the brain regulates mood and memory.

While not everyone who smokes marijuana will end up with a psychotic illness, use of the drug correlates with a risk of it occurring or coming to light out sooner. This is especially true during brain development, which lasts through a person’s early 20s.

“You’re kind of tampering with or altering the system that’s there to regulate other things,” said Dr. Romina Mizrahi, director of the Focus on Youth Psychosis Prevention clinic and research program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “Certainly don’t do it when your brain is developing,” she said. “Don’t put yourself at risk.”