Online Program

Young Adult Medical Marijuana Patients: Health Histories and Motives for Marijuana Use

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stephen Lankenau, PhD, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Ekaterina Fedorova, M.S., Department of Community Health and Prevention, Drexel University, School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
Salini Mohanty, MPH, Drexel University, School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
Chaka Dodson, MA, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Meghan Treese, BS, Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Miles McNeeley, MSW, Community, Health Outcomes, and Intervention Research Program, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Carolyn F. Wong, PhD, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Los Angeles/USC, Los Angeles, CA
Ellen Iverson, MPH, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background:  Medical marijuana was legalized in California to provide medical alternatives for physical and psychological health problems. Over the past 20 years, young adults have emerged as a significant subgroup of medical marijuana patients (MMP) yet limited data exist on health histories and motives for marijuana use among this population, or how they compare to recreational or non-patient marijuana users (NPU).

Methods: 301 young adults (aged 18 to 26) who currently use marijuana - 187 MMP and 114 NPU - were recruited in Los Angeles for a structured survey in 2014-15.  Interview questions focused on self-reported health histories, marijuana use, and motives for marijuana use.  MMP and NPU were contrasted along these dimensions using chi-square tests and t-tests.

Results:  A significantly greater proportion of MMP had ever experienced health problems (chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression) and been prescribed medications for these problems compared to NPU.  MMP also reported greater current mental distress, including anxiety and somatization. While both MMP and NPU initiated marijuana use at 15 years old, as adolescents, MMP used marijuana to self-treat for health conditions (help sleep, relieve physical pain, relieve depression) in significantly greater proportions than NPU. As current patients, a significantly greater proportion of MMP also used marijuana for similar health reasons, (sleep, pain, depression) compared to NPU.

Conclusions:  Young adult MMP reported health conditions and patterns of marijuana use that are consistent with the intent of medical marijuana laws in California.  Some NPU – based on self-reported health conditions - may also be legitimate candidates for medical marijuana recommendations in California.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the differences between young adult medical marijuana patients and non-patient marijuana users in terms of overall health histories and motivations for marijuana use.

Keyword(s): Drug Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a PhD in sociology and am the principal investigator on this NIH-funded study.
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.