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Teen Pot Smoking May Cause Long-Term Anxiety

An Australian study shows that teens who smoke pot are twice as likely to develop anxiety in adulthood.

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By Valerie Tejeda

08/07/12

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Word on the street is that marijuana is relaxing (unless you forget how to breathe or think the cops have bugged your cellphone)—but the paranoia-inducing drug has been found to cause anxiety in teens, according to a recent study from Australia. Published in the journal Addiction, researchers drew from results of a 15-year study (1992-2008) of 2,000 Victorian secondary students, and found that teenagers who smoked pot once a week or more for at least six months, had more than double the risk of developing an anxiety disorder for up to a decade later. The connection between anxiety and cannabis use was consistent even when researchers took other possible explanations into account—such as other drug use or pre-existing mental health problems. “Given that anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the Australian population…we need to investigate the findings further because it is highly possible that early cannabis use causes enduring mental health risks,'' says the study's lead author Louisa Degenhardt, adding that cannabis use during adolescence seems to have “a persistent association with anxiety disorders” continuing into adulthood. “During the teen years the parts of the brain that are involved in managing emotions are still developing rapidly and it is highly possible that heavy cannabis use at this sensitive point could have long-lasting effects,” says study co-author George Patton, of Melbourne's Murdoch Children's Research Institute. "Some of the changes were in those parts of the brain, the limbic system, involved in emotional processing and that would be the kind of area that we would think would be implicated in problems related to anxiety.”

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