Adolescent Emergency Department Visits Related to Cannabis Use Are Rising in Colorado

This study examined the impact of legalizing marijuana in Colorado (in 2009 for medical and 2014 for recreational use) on adolescent emergency department/urgent care (ED/UC) visits. Researchers reviewed International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes and urine drug screens for patients aged 13–20 presenting to a Colorado children’s hospital emergency department.

  • In total, 4202 cannabis-related visits were identified; a psychiatric diagnosis was made in 71%.
  • The rate of cannabis-related visits increased from 2 per 1000 visits in 2009 to 5 per 1000 in 2015, while the rate of cannabis-related behavioral health evaluations increased from 1 per 1000 visits in 2009 to 3 per 1000 in 2015.

Comments: To date, the impact of marijuana policy change on youth has not been fully determined and epidemiological studies have yielded mixed results. There is a well-documented relationship between chronic cannabis use during adolescence and increased risk of developing a mental health disorder. This study shines a light on the relationship between adolescent cannabis use and acute mental health problems. While the observational design and the changing laws preclude determination of causality, the findings serve as a provocative reminder that more research is needed to fully evaluate the impact of policy changes on public health, and particularly on adolescent mental health.

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reference: Wang, GS, Davies SD, Halmo LS, et al. Impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado on adolescent emergency and urgent care visits. J Adolesc Health. 2018;63(2):239–241.

Post Your Comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.
Email address is for verification only; it will not be displayed.