Study: Pro-Pot Twitter Messages Reach Kids Daily

Sunday, 29 Jun 2014 09:30 AM

By Elliot Jager

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A popular Twitter account pushing the use of marijuana is reaching mostly underage minority youngsters,researchers at Washington University in St. Louis reported.

Young people by the hundreds of thousands are getting messages multiple times a day that encourage use of Cannabis, say researchers of a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study monitored Weed Tweets@stillblazintho, a pro-cannabis Twitter account that had some 1 million followers.

In the course of the eight-month study, the account blasted over 2,200 messages — an average of 11 tweets a day — to its 1 million followers, 73 percent of whom were 19 years old or younger. About 20 percent of the tweets reached the 16 or younger crowd. Some 43 percent of the recipients were African-American and 12 percent were Hispanic.

Psychologist Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, the study's principal investigator, said young people are believed to be especially susceptible to social media influences. The message they are getting is that pot is not dangerous. "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."

She pointed to celebrity tweets as further legitimizing cannabis use.

In 2011, there were 455,000 marijuana-related emergency room visits, with about 13 percent involving patients under 17. Cavazos-Rehg said that marijuana dependence among African American youngsters was double the Caucasian rate.

Cavazos-Rehg said, "Regulating this sort of thing is going to be challenging, but the more we can provide evidence that harmful messages are being received by vulnerable kids, the more likely it is we can have a discussion about the types of regulation that might be appropriate,"

The study was funded by the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, the National Poison Data System reported that the accidental ingestion of marijuana in food by children under nine has dramatically increased in states where marijuana was decriminalized, according to a Los Angeles Times op-ed by psychiatrist David Sack.

Studies show that marijuana harms brain development in people under 20, contributes to mental health problems, hinders the memory of students preparing for exams, and can contribute to experimenting with other drugs, Sack wrote.

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