Medical marijuana use among adolescents in substance abuse treatment

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Jul;51(7):694-702. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.04.004. Epub 2012 May 26.


Objective: To assess the prevalence and frequency of medical marijuana diversion and use among adolescents in substance abuse treatment and to identify factors related to their medical marijuana use.

Method: This study calculated the prevalence and frequency of diverted medical marijuana use among adolescents (n = 164), ages 14-18 years (mean age = 16.09, SD = 1.12), in substance abuse treatment in the Denver metropolitan area. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were completed to determine factors related to adolescents' use of medical marijuana.

Results: Approximately 74% of the adolescents had used someone else's medical marijuana, and they reported using diverted medical marijuana a median of 50 times. After adjusting for gender and race/ethnicity, adolescents who used medical marijuana had an earlier age of regular marijuana use, more marijuana abuse and dependence symptoms, and more conduct disorder symptoms compared with those who did not use medical marijuana.

Conclusions: Medical marijuana use among adolescent patients in substance abuse treatment is very common, implying substantial diversion from registered users. These results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana and reduce adolescent access to diverted medical marijuana. Future studies should examine patterns of medical marijuana diversion and use in general population adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Colorado
  • Comorbidity
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Conduct Disorder / rehabilitation
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Conflict / psychology
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk-Taking
  • Social Environment
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*