Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

More Research on Teen Marijuana Dependence Needed

Teen marijuana use has continued to rise over the past four decades. With lobbyists continuing to push for the legalization of marijuana, it is easy for many to forget about the myriad of studies that have been conducted by physicians and scientists that illustrate the negative health consequences of a marijuana addiction. More research is needed on the subject of the delicate chemical balance present within the developing teen mind and how the use of marijuana interacts with natural development processes, but recently, several studies have been published which offer possible solutions to the issue of teen marijuana abuse and dependence.

The Current Research

Kevin Gray, MD, is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and the lead researcher in a study that sought to discern if the over-the-counter medication N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is indeed a promising treatment for adolescents addicted to marijuana.

Said Dr. Gray, “There’s a general perception that marijuana may not be as addictive as other drugs, and it’s not seen as a ‘hard’ drug, so people think it’s easy to stop using it. … The medical marijuana movement has further decreased the view of marijuana as risky. We’re seeing an increased rate of use and dependence in teens, which is especially worrisome because of the increased potency of marijuana in recent years.”

The study was placebo-controlled and included weekly counseling for the participants, and the researchers did indeed find that the medication NAC was effective in treating teens with marijuana addiction. Further studies are being formulated to test the effectiveness of NAC medication among all populations for addiction treatment.

Benefits of Early Treatment

Dr. Gray has noted that the benefits of early treatment are immense: “Young people should be a particular focus of treatment for marijuana dependence … we want to treat it early, before a lot of serious outcomes occur when they transition to adulthood.”

The benefits of avoiding “serious outcomes” include the ability of the teen to:

  • Avoid a legal record that can cripple future careers
  • Focus academically while in high school
  • Avoid the negative side effects of marijuana use
  • Avoid commonly associated physical and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, paranoia, social withdrawal, and sleep disorders

Marijuana Myths

Popular culture and the media have created myths surrounding teen use of marijuana. Actors and actresses depict marijuana use as a harmless part of teenage rebellion and angst. These depictions belie the clinically proven negative outcomes of teen marijuana use and the heartbreaking misuse of the time and energy of kids who ultimately end up losing themselves in drugs and—often—addiction.

If your child is struggling with a marijuana addiction, download the admissions packet online or call us here at Muir Wood to learn more about our teen-specific rehab program today.