Some Teens Take Marijuana for Pain and Anxiety

Not all teenagers smoke marijuana with the goal of getting high. A new study by researchers at the University of B.C. found some teens use marijuana to relieve or manage health problems when other therapies have not worked.

The study, led by UBC Okanagan professor Joan Bottorff, involved in-depth interviews with 63 teenagers who use marijuana. Of those, 20 said they use the drug to manage health problems such as depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping or pain.

“They were very clear they weren’t smoking to get high, but they were really smoking marijuana because they needed to,” Bottorff said Thursday in an interview. “They talked about how they didn’t smoke too much. They tried to adjust their dosage so they just smoked enough to deal with their symptoms. And the majority usually smoked by themselves.”

Many of the teens had tried conventional treatments for their health problems, but said the medication didn’t work or they didn’t like the side-effects. Those who reported sleeping difficulties said they had talked to a doctor about it, but had not been prescribed any medication because of their age.

“One young woman said she hadn’t slept in four years,” Bottorff said.

One of the young men had been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder –also known as ADHD — but said the medication he’d been given hadn’t worked.

“He decided he didn’t want to take [the ADHD drugs]any more and actually found that marijuana really helped him focus, do his school work, and really be successful in school.”

All of the 63 teens in the study used marijuana regularly, ranging in frequency from every day to twice a month. They were between the ages of 13 and 18 and were from three communities in B.C.

Bottorff said the study illustrates the need for health-care providers to pay special attention to the health needs of adolescents.

“We are not advocating medical marijuana for adolescents,” Bottorff said. “But what we think the study points to is the need to really take the health concerns of adolescents seriously and to really try and do a better job of trying to deal with them.”

She noted that while those in the study turned to marijuana to alleviate their symptoms, kids in other communities might be turning to other substances, such as alcohol, crystal meth, cocaine or other drugs.

“This study showed us that there are some kids out there with difficult health problems that they’re having trouble dealing with, and they’re not getting a lot of help — either from their family members, or from the health-care providers that they see,” Bottorff said.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was published Thursday in BioMed Central’s open access journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy.

– Article from The Vancouver Sun on April 24, 2009.


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on

    When I was 17 I had a full on mental breakdown and proper tried to kill myself. I was admitted to a mental hospital and released a week later.

    The reason for my suicidal tenancy was the fact that stress from school and life in general, as well as physical reasons, resulted in me having incredible anxiety attacks. These attacks would last so long that I would end up staying awake all night freaking out shaking, and not being able to breathe. This lack of sleep only further made things stressful as it hindered my ability to preform both academically and athletically.

    I started smoking pot, like a bowl over the course of a day, and the anxiety went away. I could literally FEEL it go away after one hit. I never attempted suicide again, and ripped up the 50 prescriptions I got for sleeping pills, anti-depressants and anti anxiety pills. Recently I had to take a drug test and couldn’t smoke pot for about a week, the anxiety attacks came right back and I couldn’t sleep. I started taking some of the anti-anxiety medication I had left over, it did not help at all.

    I personally think there is indeed a population of youth that would directly benefit to a life saving degree if given pot for anxiety and stress.