Teens who smoke cannabis on a regular basis use it as a medication, rather than as a means of getting high, a new study has found.
In the study, which was published in BioMed Central's open access journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy, Joan Bottorff worked with a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia.
The research team conducted in-depth interviews with 63 cannabis-using adolescents. Of these, 20 claimed that they used cannabis to relieve or manage health problems.
Bottorff said, "Marijuana is perceived by some teens to be the only available alternative for those experiencing difficult health problems when legitimate medical treatments have failed or when they lack access to appropriate health care".
The most common complaints recorded were emotional problems (including depression, anxiety and stress), sleep difficulties, problems with concentration and physical pain. The teens' experiences with the medical system were uniformly negative.
The authors said, "Youth who reported they had been prescribed drugs such as Ritalin, Prozac or sleeping pills, stopped using them because they did not like how these drugs made them feel or found them ineffective. For these kids, the purpose of smoking marijuana was not specifically about getting high or stoned".