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'Diverted' Medical Marijuana Use Common Among Teens: Study

THURSDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Among teens receiving treatment for substance abuse, many have used medical marijuana that was recommended for someone else, also known as "diverted" medical marijuana, a new study has found.

The study authors, from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., suggest that policy changes are needed to curb the improper use of medical marijuana by young people.

In conducting the study, lead author Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel and colleagues questioned 164 teens aged 14 to 18 at two adolescent substance abuse treatment programs in Denver about their use of medical marijuana. The investigators found that nearly 74 percent of the teens used marijuana that was recommended for someone else an average of 50 times.

Compared with teens who did not use medical marijuana, those who did began using the drug regularly at a younger age and were also more dependent on marijuana and showed more symptoms of conduct disorder, according to the report published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The researchers pointed out, however, that most of the teens believed the drug comes with little or no risk.

Because recent state and federal policy changes have opened doors for more legalized medical marijuana use in Colorado, the researchers suggested that teens using medical marijuana most likely got it from an adult with a valid registry identification card for the drug.

The study authors concluded that improved safeguards are needed to prevent medical marijuana from falling into the hands of people who should not have it, particularly teenagers.

"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," Salomonsen-Sautel said in a journal news release. "Our results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana to adolescents."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about marijuana.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, news release, July 31, 2012

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