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Colorado Addiction Treatment Centers Brace for More Teens Referred for Marijuana Use

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Addiction treatment centers in Colorado are bracing for an increase in teens referred for marijuana use, ABC News reports. The state began legal sales of recreational marijuana for adults last week.

While only people 21 and older are allowed to purchase marijuana, some experts are concerned the law will allow the drug to more easily fall into the hands of teens.

Dr. Christian Thurstone, who heads the teen rehabilitation center Adolescent STEP: Substance Abuse Treatment Education & Prevention Program, said 95 percent of patient referrals to the program are for marijuana use. In preparation for the new law, Dr. Thurstone has doubled his staff.

He told ABC News that marijuana can be harmful for some teens, particularly those suffering from mental illness. He said that after Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2009, teens began to use much higher potency products. “Our kids are presenting more severe addictions; it takes them longer to get a clean urine drug screen,” he said. Higher-potency marijuana can increase the risk of psychotic episodes in some teens, Thurstone added.

“Anecdotally, yes, we’re seeing kids in treatment here who have paranoia and seeing things and hearing things that aren’t there,” he said. “Adolescent exposure to marijuana [raises] risk of permanent psychosis in adulthood.”

Ben Court, an addictions expert at the University of Colorado Hospital Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation, has also seen an increase in patients addicted to marijuana since the state approved medical marijuana. He says the younger people are when they start consistently using marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted. “Most people are going to smoke weed and it’s not going to be an issue. By 18 to 24, your odds are less than 1 in 10 that you’re going to be addicted,” he said. “If you start under 18, it’s 1 in 6.”

5 Responses to this article

  1. Joe Miller / January 10, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Colin, what kind of message are we giving our children when the societal norm is to treat people with medical problems like criminals or force people into treatment when they don’t have a medical problem?

  2. Avatar of colin scott
    colin scott / January 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    We are at a puzzling juncture in these times. What are societal norms telling our children?
    Kids do not fully understand the mental health implications that MJ represents. We have heard all the rationals, questions remain about cigarettes, and alcohol, and where MJ fits into the ATOD matrix for young adults and children. There will never be an easy fix when it comes to addictive/mind altering drugs-they affect each person differently, and some are more, much more susceptible to scitzophrenia/depression/manic episodes than others. Sometimes all it takes it just that one time.

  3. Woods Houghton / January 9, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    As a parent and educator this scare me. I just can not believe our federal government will not do their job. So if states want they legalize anything.

  4. Chudley Edward Werch, Ph / January 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    It is critical that substance abuse and health professionals increase their efforts to use evidence-based prevention programs shown to be effective in preventing and reducing marijuana use among youth. This is the case not only in Colorado and Washington, where recreational use of marijuana has been legalized, but also throughout the US as rates of teen marijuana use continue to increase.

  5. Avatar of darlene cannaday
    darlene cannaday / March 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I totally agree with you. I run teen diversion groups for first offenders of Marijuana possession. These teens feel they are entitled to use Marijuana, since legalization for adults is beginning to sweep the country. They do not understand that THC (chemical in Marijuana) effects their neurotransmitters and may have life long effects on their ability to function within their communities.

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