Youth Medical Marijuana Use and Unmet Health Needs
"Of key importance in the findings are the unmet health needs of these youth. Health issues such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety were significant problems that interfered with these youths' ability to function at school, maintain relationships with family and friends, and feel that they could live a normal life. The level of distress associated with these health concerns, along with the lack of effective interventions by heath care providers and family members appeared to leave them with few alternatives. Researchers have reported that when adolescents in rural communities experience barriers to seeking health care, they think they can take care of the problems themselves . Similarly, our study participants believed that their best option was to assume responsibility for treating their problems by using marijuana. Unpleasant side effects with prescribed medications and long, ineffective therapies resulted in little hope that the medical system could be counted on as beneficial. In contrast, marijuana provided these youth with immediate relief for a variety of health concerns. Nevertheless, the regular use of marijuana put youth at risk. Cannabis use has been identified as a risk factor for mental illness such as psychosis, schizophrenia [21,31,32] and psychiatric symptoms such as panic attacks . Teens who smoked marijuana at least once per month in the past year were found to be three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-users , and there is evidence that exposure to cannabis may worsen depression in youth . Marijuana use among youth has also been associated with other substance use and school failure . What is interesting is that the findings of this study suggest that youth have little awareness of some of these risks; rather, some are using marijuana to counteract these very problems (e.g., depression, school failure). Teens' perceptions that their health concerns were not addressed suggest that more attention is needed to assess these issues and ensure that other options are available to them. Parents and health care providers need to make a concerted effort to not only understand the pressures and influences on youth , but also gain a better understanding of the effect of youths' health problems on their ability to engage in healthy lifestyle choices."
Bottorff, Joan L , Johnson, Joy L, Moffat, Barbara M, and Mulvogue, Tamsin, "Relief-oriented use of marijuana by teens," Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy (Vancouver, BC: April 2009), doi:10.1186/1747-597X-4-7.