Online Program

Marijuana as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs among medical marijuana users from a cluster-based sample of dispensaries in los angeles county (LAC)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Tina Kim, PhD MA, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Alhambra, CA
Benedict Lee, PhD, Emergency Preparedness and Response Program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Shantel Muldrew, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control, Alhambra, CA
Christine Grella, PhD, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP), UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Luz Rodriguez, UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, Los Angeles, CA
Introduction: The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is growing, yet little research exists on how and why individuals use medical marijuana (MM). This study examines overall health profiles, behaviors, and the practice of substitution (of another drug) among medical marijuana users in LAC.

Methods: MM dispensaries were randomly sampled in proportion to their distribution throughout the county, with varying survey recruitment days/times to maximize sampling variability. 182 clients from 13 dispensaries completed the survey. The majority (74%) were male; ages ranged from 17 to 63 (Mean=28.4). Racial/ethnic breakdown: 44% white, 26% Hispanic, 13% African American, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 7% multi-ethnic, and 4% other. 55% had some college education, and 45% worked full time. Results: Mean age of first marijuana use was 17.2 (SD=5.3), and average duration of MM use was 2.5 years. MM was used equally for physical health and mental health conditions. Nearly all (91%) believed that use of MM has helped them “very much”. 21% reported misuse of illicit drugs; 46% reported risky alcohol use; and 44% smoked cigarettes. Over half (58.4%) used MM as a substitute for prescription drugs, 41.2% for alcohol, and 30% for other illicit drugs. Clients preferred MM because it is “natural,” has less adverse side effects, and is more effective. Conclusions: Medical marijuana is often used as a substitute to reduce the negative outcomes associated with prescription drugs, alcohol, or other illicit drugs. Therefore, health interventions targeted at MM users should address this substitution practice within the framework of harm reduction.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe overall health profile and behaviors of medical marijuana users in LAC. Identify the patterns of substitution practice among medical marijuana users in LAC.

Keyword(s): Marijuana, Substance Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal or co-principal of multiple research projects focusing on Prescription drug abuse in Los Angeles County; Development of strategic action plan and policy to reduce prescription drug abuse; Medical marijuana use; Racial and ethnic disparities in substance abuse treatment completion; Explore the capacity of substance abuse treatment organizations to implement evidence-based, culturally competent practices in co-occurring disorder treatment, and to assess the impact of effective implementation on Latino treatment outcomes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.