An increasingly available option for medical patients suffering chronic pain — medical marijuana — should be avoided by teens, Mayo Clinic researchers say in an upcoming publication.

A commentary, to be published in the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, relies on findings from cases involving three high school-age patients at Mayo's pediatric chronic pain clinic, who said they used marijuana regularly.

Despite their use, the teens' pain worsened. They reported impaired function and had difficulty becoming more socially active, according to a summary of the report.

Fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, impaired concentration and slower reaction times are all common adverse effects of excessive marijuana use, and use of the drug before age 16 has been linked to earlier development of psychosis and to persistent cognitive damage in certain users.

In light of the fact that there are few studies regarding the risks and benefits of marijuana therapy for patients of any age, including teens, using it may simply not be worth the associated risks, the study says.

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"The consequences may be very, very severe, particularly for adolescents who may get rid of their pain — or not — at the expense of the rest of their life," said psychiatrist and co-author Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, in a written statement.

"If you're a pain patient, and you're using this drug or others, narcotics as well, one of the side-effects is to be 'out of it' —and 'out of it' when the goal of a pain rehab program is actually to get you 'into it,'" Bostwick said. "The whole point is function restoration, not further functional decline."

Co-authors with Bostwick are Dr. Tracy E. Harrison, Dr. Barbara K. Bruce, Dr. Karen E. Weissand Dr. Teresa A. Rummans.

Medical marijuana "may help some specific conditions," the clinic notes. The researchers recommend that pain doctors screen teens for marijuana use, and that care teams focus on helping teens improve their functional abilities even in the face of pain.

"If you will not work on your life until your pain is gone, then you're probably going to be stuck for a very long time, because the kinds of chronic pain that show up in pain clinics tend to not ever completely go away," Bostwick said. "They tend to be managed. People have to learn to get on with their lives even despite the pain."