Trends of Youth Marijuana Treatment Admissions: Increasing Admissions Contrasted with Decreasing Drug Involvement
Background: Recent changes in marijuana policies and their potential negative effects on youth development are a public health concern. Identifying the most appropriate treatment approaches for problematic marijuana use is important. Objectives: The aim of this study was to track marijuana use among young people by examining national changes from 1995 to 2012 in the demographics, referral sources, and the substance use patterns related to youth admissions to substance abuse treatment programs. Methods: We examined first-time substance abuse treatment admissions among youth, utilizing the Treatment Episode Data Set - Admissions (TEDS-A) of the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (N = 12,025,787). Chi-squared analysis was used to examine differences between admission years and binomial logistic regression was used to examine trends over the 18 years. Results: We found increasing numbers of youth in dependent living situations (e.g. with parents) admitted to substance use disorder treatment for marijuana. We also found a dramatic drop in the degree of drug involvement for those admissions over nearly two decades of data. Conclusions/Importance: While availability and changing perceptions of marijuana might have caused an increase in admissions to substance abuse treatment, our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased. This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services and not overlooking tools such as screening, brief intervention, and motivational interviewing as effective for varying levels of marijuana use by youth.