Many teenagers who smoke marijuana are trying to find a way to cope with mental and physical problems, not to get high, Canadian researchers said.
Dr. Joan L. Bottorff, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and her team found that adolescents who use marijuana to deal with depression, grief, stress or anxiety, have no other option.
"We really need to pay attention to adolescents who are experiencing concerns about their health, who are having difficulties, and we need to work with them to find alternatives," she said in an interview.
The researchers interviewed 20 teenagers from Vancouver and two rural communities in British Columbia about why they smoked marijuana. The province allows some medical marijuana use, the added, and the drug is also fairly available illegally.
In a report published in the online journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy, they said six teens said they smoked pot to relieve depression, while 12 said they used the drug to ease stress and anxiety.
Nine used marijuana to help them sleep better, three said pot helped them to concentrate, and five said they used the drug for pain relief. Several of the teens said they smoked marijuana for more than one reason.
The teens often said drugs they had been prescribed for their problems, including antidepressants, Ritalin, or sleeping pills, didn't work, or had unpleasant side effects.
When they had sought help from doctors or other adults, they said their concerns weren't taken seriously or the treatments they were offered didn't help.
"We're certainly not advocating that youth resort to marijuana to deal with their health problems," Bottorff said.
Pot carries many risks, she pointed out, including interfering with learning and memory and harming the lungs. Also, the researcher said, there is evidence that smoking pot can trigger psychotic symptoms and disorders in young people.
The researchers said the findings show that young people need help from adults to find other ways, such as counseling, stress management of social skills training, to cope with difficulties in their lives.
May 1, 2009
The Windsor Star