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Medical marijuana legalization and associated illicit drug use and prescription drug misuse among U.S. adolescents

Over half of the U.S. states have implemented medical marijuana laws. A recent study looked at how these laws have impacted the existing issues of adolescent illicit drug use and prescription drug misuse within those states.

This study used data from the 2013-2015 National Survey of Drug Use and Health and included 26,826 adolescents aged 12-18. The data collected was analyzed to observe trends in illicit drug use, prescription drug misuse, and use of tobacco and alcohol.

The results showed that adolescents who lived in states where medical marijuana had been legalized were more likely to have used cocaine and heroin in the year prior. However, the data indicated that adolescents from these states were not more likely to use other illicit drugs or misuse prescription drugs.

This study supports previous data in showing that substance use is an issue among adolescents in the U.S. These findings build upon current knowledge by suggesting that states where medical marijuana is legal should consider the risks of other drug use among adolescents and implement education on these topics.

Take away: In states where medical marijuana has been legalized, adolescents are more likely to use heroin and cocaine. However, they are not more likely to use other illicit drugs or misuse prescription drugs compared to adolescents in states where medical marijuana is not legal.

Wong, S., Lin, H., (2018). Medical marijuana legalization and associated illicit drug use and prescription medication misuse among adolescents in the U.S. Addictive Behaviors. 90 (48-54). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.10.017

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