Youth With Inflammatory Bowel Disease Perceive Marijuana Use as Beneficial

Marijuana use during adolescence is associated with known harms, while the benefits of marijuana use for youth with medical conditions are to-date unsubstantiated. As more states permit medical use of marijuana, the perceived risk of harm is plummeting. Researchers examined rates and reasons for marijuana use and perceived risk of harm among 99 youth aged 13–23 being treated for inflammatory bowel disease in Colorado.

  • 32% of youth endorsed lifetime marijuana use and 9% endorsed daily or near daily use.
  • 57% endorsed at least one medical reason for use.
  • Compared with youth without marijuana use, those who used marijuana were 10.7 times more likely to perceive low risk of harm with regular use.

Comments: The science behind medical marijuana is trailing far behind rapidly evolving policy and its attendant impact on public opinion. The medicalization of marijuana, which can facilitate widespread access and encourage more regular and heavy use, may serve as a disincentive to the development of more appropriate cannabinoid therapeutics. This outcome is a substantial disservice to those who could potentially benefit most from cannabinoids.

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reference: Hoffenberg EJ, McWilliams SK, Mikulich-Gilbertson SK, et al. Marijuana use by adolescents and young adults with inflammatory bowel disease. J Pediatr 2018 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.03.041.

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