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Pro-Pot Tweets Setting Stage For Drug Use InYouths

Update Date: Jun 28, 2014 09:25 PM EDT

Many American youths are following marijuana-related Twitter accounts and getting pro-pot messages several times a day, according to a new research. 

Researchers said the tweets are cause for concern because youths are thought to be more responsive to social media influences. Further, patterns of drug use tend to be established in a person's late teens and early 20s. 

Researchers analyzed messages tweeted from May 1 through Dec 31, 2013 by a Twitter account called Weed Tweets which has about 1 million followers. In the followed tenure, the account tweeted an average of 11 tweets per day.

"As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it is important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse," said principal investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, in a press release. "I've been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous."

Although 19 states now allow marijuana use for medical purposes, much of the evidence for its effectiveness remains anecdotal, the press release added.

According to a federal research in 2011, marijuana contributed to more than 455,000 emergency room visits in the United States out of which around 13 percent of those patients were ages 12 to 17.

"These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs," explained Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry, in the press release. "It's an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it's a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these."

The study has been published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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