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Adolescents who feel “Low” Cope with Marijuana, Study Reports

Update Date: Sep 15, 2014 11:32 AM EDT

For some adolescents and young adults, using marijuana can become a coping mechanism, a new study reported. According to the researchers, young individuals with negative moods use marijuana to manage and block those emotions.

"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," explained 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 reported in the press release. "One of the challenges is that people often may use marijuana to feel better but may feel worse afterward. 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."

Dr. Shrier and her team examined 40 participants between the ages of 15 and 24. The participants used marijuana an average of 9.7 times per week and each participant smoked at least twice a week. The researchers gave the participants a hand-held device that would beep during three-hour intervals for around four to six times per day. Each time the device beeped, and before and after they used marijuana, the participants had to record their mood, companionship, availability of marijuana and any recent marijuana use. At the end of the study, the researchers had more than 3,600 reports to analyze.

"There are a host of limitations with retrospective assessments, such as asking people 'the last time you used marijuana, why did you use it?'" Shrier stated. "We weren't asking people to predict anything or to recall anything-we were just asking them to give us reports about how they were feeling right now. We were able to put under a microscope the association between those feelings and subsequent marijuana use."

The team discovered that negative affect was linked to an increase in marijuana use. People reported higher instances of experiencing negative moods 24 hours prior to smoking in comparison to other periods of time throughout the study.

The study, "Momentary positive and negative affect preceding marijuana use events in youth," was published in the Journal of Studies and Alcohol and Drugs.

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