Exposure to medical marijuana advertising increases usage risk in adolescents



The more exposure children in sixth to eighth grade had to medical marijuana advertising, the more likely they were to use or intend to use marijuana 1 year in the future, according to Elizabeth D’Amico and her associates at the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.

Of 8,214 sixth- to eighth-grade youth in 2010 and 2011 in 16 middle schools in Southern California (50% male; 52% Hispanic; mean age = 13 years) surveyed in 2010 and 2011, 22% of the children initially had seen at least one marijuana advertisement. These children were more than twice as likely to use or consider using marijuana 1 year later, with odds ratios of 2.2 and 2.07, respectively.

Children with higher academic performance were more likely to have seen advertising, while males and children of Asian descent were less likely. For both marijuana usage and intent to use, higher academic performance increased risk, and being of Asian descent lowered risk.

“Given that advertising typically only tells one side of the story, prevention efforts must begin to better educate youth about medical marijuana while also emphasizing the negative effects that marijuana can have on the brain and performance,” the investigators noted. Other studies have shown that “initiation of marijuana use during early adolescence is associated with poor school performance, neuropsychological performance deficits, and further use of other illicit drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.”

“Because this is a new frontier, it is important to think about whether regulations should be put in place on medical marijuana and recreational marijuana advertising, similar to regulations that are in place for the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products,” they said.

Find the full study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors (doi:10.1037/adb0000094).

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