Marijuana and Youth – Experiences From a Practising Physician


The impact medical marijuana has had on our adolescent substance-abuse treatment program in Denver is profound.

The 2009 boom in marijuana distribution coincides with a tripling of teens referred to our program. Currently, 51 percent of our patients report getting their marijuana from someone with a medical marijuana license.

Not surprisingly, patient attitudes about marijuana are changing – and in ways that make it much more difficult for us to help them stop using the drug. Recently, a teenage boy said he couldn’t stop smoking marijuana because “it is my medicine for anger.”

Even worse, a few young adult patients in treatment for marijuana addiction have marijuana licenses. These patients struggle with conflicting messages from one physician who recommends smoking marijuana and another who recommends stopping.

In Denver, marijuana is advertised on billboards and in magazines and newspapers using themes that appeal to young people. Because youth are highly vulnerable to both the effects of advertising and the addictive potential of marijuana, it is not surprising that 60 percent of the state’s medical marijuana users are under 44 years old.

We must act swiftly to prevent situations such as this from getting worse.
Christian Thurstone, M.D. is the Medical Director of Adolescent Substance Treatment, Education and Prevention at Denver Health and Hospital Authority and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Denver.

Source: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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