CONTACT Use and diversion of medical marijuana among adults admitted to inpatient psychiatry - Dr. Christian Thurstone

The results of this research were published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in March 2015. For more information, see

Co-authors: Nussbaum AM, Thurstone C, McGarry L, Walker B, Sabel AL

Citation: Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2015 Mar;41(2):166-72. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2014.949727



Marijuana use is associated with anxiety, depressive, psychotic, neurocognitive, and substance use disorders. Many U.S. states are legalizing marijuana for medical uses.


To determine the prevalence of medical marijuana use and diversion among psychiatric inpatients in Colorado.


Some 623 participants (54.6% male) responded to an anonymous 15-item discharge survey that assessed age, gender, marijuana use, possession of a medical marijuana card, diversion of medical marijuana, perceived substance use problems, and effects of marijuana use. Univariate statistics were used to characterize participants and their responses. Chi-square tests assessed factors associated with medical marijuana registration.


Of the total number of respondents, 282 (47.6%) reported using marijuana in the last 12 months and 60 (15.1%) reported having a marijuana card. In comparison to survey respondents who denied having a medical marijuana card, those respondents with a medical marijuana card were more likely to have initiated use before the age of 25, to be male, to have used marijuana in the last 12 months, and to have used at least 20 days in the past month. 133 (24.1%) respondents reported that someone with a medical marijuana card had shared or sold medical marijuana to them; 24 (41.4%) of respondents with a medical marijuana card reported ever having shared or sold their medical marijuana.


Medical marijuana use is much more prevalent among adults hospitalized with a psychiatric emergency than in the general population; diversion is common. Further studies which correlate amount, dose, duration, and strain of use with particular psychiatric disorders are needed.

About Chris Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of only a few dozen physicians in the United States who are board-certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is Director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction psychiatry fellowship program. You can read more about him here.

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