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74 Percent of Teens in CO Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Used Diverted Medical Marijuana


Three-quarters of teenage patients in substance abuse treatment programs in Denver, Colorado said they used someone else’s medical marijuana, according to a new study.

The study revealed that 121 of 164 teenage patients (73.8 percent) have ever used medical marijuana prescribed to someone else.  Patients reported using diverted medical marijuana from one to 1,000 times, with a median of 50 times, suggesting that most adolescent patients have used medical marijuana on multiple occasions, according to Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Division of Substance Dependence. She reported the findings at the recent College on Problems of Drug Dependence, and the study appears online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study found that after adjusting for gender and race/ethnicity, teenage patients 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.

As of the end of April 2012, Colorado has 48 registered medical marijuana users under the age of 18. Four of the 164 teenage patients in the study reported being evaluated for a medical marijuana card; however, only one teenage patient received a medical marijuana card. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 96,709 people in the state were registered as medical marijuana users as of April 30, 2012. This means 2.5 percent of the adults in Colorado are registered medical marijuana users, according to Salomonsen-Sautel.

“We don’t know what proportion of the marijuana they are using is medical marijuana,” Salomonsen-Sautel notes. She said the findings imply that there is substantial diversion from registered medical marijuana users. She and her colleagues say the results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana, and reduce teenager access to it.

7 Responses to this article

  1. Joe Miller / July 4, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Would we rather the title of this article read “74 Percent of Teens in CO Substance Abuse Treatment Programs obtained their cannabis from predatory criminals working as gangster street dealers”?

  2. Mike Mitchell / June 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Again, attempting to base arguments on simple opinion as opposed to researching, evaluating the research, making an informed choice, brings back a simple opinion. These types of arguments are simply repeated mantras of those who choose to have their opinion molded by their own biases, as opposed to having educated opinions. As far as I could tell from the article and other articles that reach objective opinions from their research, the ability to obtain medical marijuana in this state has had adverse effects, “…teenage patients 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.” I thought the idea of humanity was to promote ideas, programs, philosophies that seek to benefit humanity, not to simply promote self-satisfaction. You won’t find very many recovered addicts that would walk the same path again. Why would we want anyone to walk that path?

  3. Luis Lozano / June 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    And 100% got alcohol from where? If you are using this as an argument against the sale or legalization of marijuana then we should probably go back to alcohol prohibition and see how that works.

  4. Diogo / June 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Or so they said…like people who overdosed on heroin sometimes tell you: it was the first time I’ve ever used it. It’s likely that some of it is being diverted, but to say that the vast majority (3/4) of the teenagers have turned to patients to acquire their pot is underestimating the availability of other sources which have existed for the longest time. It just sounds better if you tell an adult that you didn’t go to a drug dealer, and teenagers — no judgment here — are all about telling adults what they think adults want to hear (like the first-time-ever overdosed person).

  5. Jen Bugarini / June 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm


  6. Doug / July 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Good points Diogo. Also, what % of these youth stole it from someone? It was not listed as their only source of MJ, just one source of many for the majority of the kids. They are in less danger from a parent’s MMJ than they are from an uncle’s percocet. Or parental beer. There has been media coverage of the shameful rate at which teens get opiates (and alcohol) from family members, too. Those drugs cause actual deaths, unlike THC. I would rather see government and academia focus on controlling the drugs that do the most damage, i.e., everything other than cannabis. We waste so much time and ink on it while youth and adults drop like flies from the truly deadly drugs, all of which are legal (some without a precription).

  7. Joshua / July 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    the alcohol they got was safer, cleaner, and of higher quality because it was legal – we don’t often read stories of teenagers going blind after setting up their own distilleries

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