Date of Award

12-20-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Ike Okosun

Second Advisor

Dr. Kymberle Sterling

Abstract

Background: Marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in the United States. Public approval of marijuana has driven its legalization in twenty states and the District of Columbia for medical use; and, this year alone (2013), two states have legalized recreational use of the drug. Despite the nation’s growing trend towards marijuana acceptance, the evidence regarding the health effects of its use remains vague. This study was designed to evaluate the health profile of marijuana users by determining the association of marijuana use with quality of life, defined in terms of perceived overall health and as self-reported medical conditions.

Methods: The 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data was used to evaluate the health profile and quality of life of marijuana smokers. Chi-square and one-way ANOVA analyses were respectively used to compare prevalence and mean differences of select characteristics across different categories grouped by marijuana use. Logistic regression analyses were then performed to determine the association between the reported number of unhealthy days or medical conditions and marijuana use in the past month. All analyses were performed with SAS 9.2 software using weighted data, while 95% confidence intervals were used to determine statistical significance.

Results: In total, 7716 cases were included in the study analysis. The prevalence of lifetime marijuana use was 59% (N = 3632), while the prevalence of current (past month) marijuana use was 12.6% (N = 861). Current marijuana users differed significantly from never users with respect to age, gender, income-to-poverty ratio, cigarette smoking, and alcohol and drug use. Current marijuana users also reported more unhealthy days per month, but less frequently reported diagnosis of a medical condition. Results of logistic regression analysis demonstrated that after controlling for confounders, there was no significant association between unhealthy days and current marijuana use, but there was an inverse association with reporting 3+ medical conditions and current marijuana use.

Conclusions: This study shows that marijuana users are more likely to engage in health risk behaviors, and report lower quality of life when compared to individuals who have never used marijuana. However, after controlling for confounders, marijuana use was not found to be associated with poor health outcomes.

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