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Marijuana Use can Become a Vicious Cycle, Researchers

Sep 15, 2014 09:27 AM EDT

Teens and young adults who use marijuana rarely realize the side-effects of the drug and continue to manage negative moods by increasing its intake.

The study, conducted by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, shows why young people find it difficult to manage marijuana-related highs.

"Young people who use marijuana frequently experience an increase in negative affect in the 24 hours leading up to a use event, which lends strong support to an affect-regulation model in this population," says the study's lead author Lydia A. Shrier, M.D., M.P.H., of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at Boston Children's Hospital.

Using the drug to manage marijuana-induced lows results in poor coping mechanisms in young people, researchers say. The study was based on data from 40 people, aged between 15 to 24 years.

"One of the challenges is that people often may use marijuana to feel better but may feel worse afterward," Shrier said in a news release. "Marijuana use can be associated with anxiety and other negative states. People feel bad, they use, and they might momentarily feel better, but then they feel worse. They don't necessarily link feeling bad after using with the use itself, so it can become a vicious circle."

The participants in the study used marijuana at least two times a week. The researchers trained the volunteers to use a hand-held computer device that they had to use to provide details about their mood, companionship, availability of marijuana and recent drug use. In all, participants logged in around 3,600 reports.

The researchers found that the negative effect of marijuana use increased roughly 24 hours before marijuana use. The team says that the study provides evidence that marijuana users fall into a pattern of drug-use that they can't break. Clinicians need to identify these cycles to help people cope with addiction problems.

Marijuana is an easily accessible drug. According to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more teens are smoking marijuana than cigarettes. The research has shown that most teens believe the drug to be a safer option than cigarettes and alcohol.

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