Teens’ ER visits saw an upsurge after pot legalization in Colorado, finds study


Teenage years can be exciting times for some when young adults often start experimenting and trying out new experiences. It is that stage of life when a person loves to do varied things, such as making new friends, visiting new places, following fads, trying new foods, and the likes. However, this phase has a negative side too when the curiosity drives teenagers to try alcohol or drugs or tobacco and develop some or other addiction.

According to a new study titled, “Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado on Adolescent Emergency Department (ED) Visits,” the researchers have established that the number of teenagers sent to emergency rooms (ER) due to their mental health symptoms more than quadrupled after marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

Teens tested positive for marijuana

The findings of the study are based on the data available from the hospital system’s ED and urgent care records. These records have been maintained for 13- to 21-year-olds who visited the hospital between January 2005 and June 2015.

Dr. George Sam Wang, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said, “People believe that marijuana is safe, it is not.”

Mentioned below are few of the key observations drawn after analyzing these records:

  • Cannabis-related diagnostic code or individuals who tested positive for marijuana from a urine drug screen annually had increased four times during the decade, from 146 in 2005 to 639 in 2015.
  • Of the recorded 3,443 marijuana-related visits during the study period, approximately 66 percent of the adolescents were found to have symptoms of mental illnesses as well. The number of psychiatry consultations had also increased from 65 to 442 during the said period.
  • More than half of the teens also tested positive for other drugs. Ethanol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opiates and cocaine were the most commonly detected drugs during the urine screen tests.

While several researchers believed that legalization had no major impact on teens using the drug, Dr. Wang suspected that the data available from national surveys did not entirely reflect the effect legalization may be having on teen drug use.

“The state-level effect of marijuana legalization on adolescent use has only begun to be evaluated. As our results suggest, targeted marijuana education and prevention strategies are necessary to reduce the significant public health impact the drug can have on adolescent populations, particularly on mental health,” said Dr. Wang.

Dr. Wang also tried to evaluate the effect of marijuana legalization on younger kids, as they were more likely to get addicted to the substance. Analysis revealed that the average rate of marijuana-related visits to the children’s hospital doubled after legalization in 2016. The number of poison center calls about marijuana had also gone up to 47 in 2015 from nine in 2009.

Effect of marijuana legalization

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data 2016, approximately 38 percent of high school students reported having used marijuana in their life.

While marijuana has been legalized in numerous states of the U.S, its legalization for medicinal purposes in Colorado was done in 2010 and for recreational purpose in 2014. But, the decision has long been in controversy. Though the decision has its positive sides in reducing illicit drug trafficking and making the drug widely available for medicinal use, it has also lead to an increase in the number of drug abuse cases, especially among youngsters, across the country.

Helping children avoid drug abuse

Drugs are easily available to kids within their own house, in their parents’ cabinet, neighbors, friends or some other relative. Therefore, it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure that these are not in easy reach of their children. Various studies have shown that the regular and heavy use of marijuana especially in adolescents can have permanent effects on their developing brains.

Kids, especially boys, have a major inclination towards exploring the effects of drug use on their body and mind. But, it is important for them to understand that it does more harm than good to their mental as well as physical health. If your teenager has become addicted to any substance, White River Academy can help.

White River Academy is one of the leading boarding schools for troubled youth to help them recover from their addiction or mental illness. The school has a state-of-the-art environment and follows a holistic approach in providing help to teenage boys to kick off their drug addiction and recover. With innovative treatment methods offered in a congenial atmosphere, our troubled teen boarding school is the best place for a teenage boy to turn his life around.

If you or someone you know needs help to overcome their addiction to alcohol, drugs, or any other substance, contact the 24/7 helpline number or chat online with one of our experts to get complete information about our troubled teen boarding school in Utah.

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