Teens Using Pot for Medical Reasons Likely To Become Addicted

What effect does medical marijuana have on teenage users?

For those who meet the criteria to obtain it, medical marijuana can provide relief from the painful effects of cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, PTSD and AIDS-wasting. Because of this, 23 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have all passed medical marijuana laws that allow for legal use after the diagnosis of specific conditions.

However, many anti-drug advocates believe that allowing teens to use medical marijuana is simply asking for addiction issues later in life. And those strongly-held beliefs have been confirmed by the findings of a new study set to be published in next month’s issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The Research Highlights Serious Concerns


Researchers at the University of Michigan compiled data from 4,394 high school seniors across the country. Forty-eight of the teens had medical marijuana cards, while 266 of them had illegally used medical marijuana.

This study divided the participant’s marijuana use into three categories: medical users; those who used another's medical marijuana and those who obtained it from a non-medical source such a street dealer.

Researchers then analyzed five specific behaviors connected to marijuana and drug use, including increased usage of pot to get high and also using alcohol or prescription pills.

Their findings showed that:

  • Medical marijuana users were 10 times more likely to say they were addicted to pot.
  • Teens who used medical marijuana that belonged to a peer were the most likely group to engage in all five risky behaviors, but were only four times as likely to say they were addicted to marijuana.
  • The group that obtained the drug from non-medical sources was by far the largest of the three groups, but also had the lowest likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors or admitting addiction.

"I think that medical marijuana laws are failed policy and that these data lend support to my position," said Carol Boyd, the study's lead author and professor at the U-M School of Nursing. "More youth use medical marijuana that don't have a card than that have a card."

The Root of the Addiction 

But while teenage medical marijuana users may be more prone to pot addiction, Boyd did not believe that medical marijuana itself is creating teen addiction. Other research projects have also supported her claim.

A June 2012 study found that not only did medical marijuana fail to contribute to increased use among high school students, but that use even declined in some of the states that have legalized medical pot. The scientists also found no evidence that marijuana served as a gateway drug for alcohol or cocaine.

But while marijuana use may not serve as a gateway drug for these two substances, using pot is hardly a harmless practice. If you’re concerned that your child may smoking pot, talk with them about the harmful effects of marijuana and make it clear that you will not tolerate them using it.

Additional Reading: First TV Commercial for Legal Marijuana (Almost) Hits the Airwaves

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