Frequent marijuana use in adolescence could negatively impact teens as they grow into young adults, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
Researchers found that adolescents who use marijuana daily have 18 times greater chance of marijuana dependence, are eight times as likely to use other illicit drugs later in life, and are seven times more likely to attempt suicide, though the researchers note that evidence was not sufficient to support a causal link between marijuana use and suicide.
In addition, adolescents who use marijuana daily are over 60% less likely to complete high school or obtain a degree compared to those who have never used marijuana.
“The results provide very strong evidence for a more direct relationship between adolescence cannabis use and later harm,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Edmund Silins. “The findings are particularly timely given the growing movement to decriminalize or legalize cannabis because this has raised the possibility the drug might become more accessible to young people.”
The team of Australian and New Zealand researchers conducted the large meta-analysis by combining individual-level data on up to 3,765 participants who used marijuana in order to learn more about the link between frequency of marijuana use in adolescence (defined as under 17) and seven developmental outcomes up to the age of 30; in other words, how the teens grow into young adult life.
The researchers focused on whether the teens completed high school, obtained a college degree, became dependent on marijuana, had attempted suicide, were diagnosed with depression, used other illegal drugs, and became dependent on welfare.
The study, which controlled for 53 potential confounding factors including age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, other drug use, and mental illness, yielded clear and consistent associations between frequency of marijuana use and most of the seven developmental outcomes.
“Our results provide strong evidence that the prevention or delay of cannabis use is likely to have broad health and social benefits," said Dr. Silins. "Efforts to reform cannabis legislation should be carefully assessed to ensure they reduce adolescent cannabis use and prevent potentially adverse effects on adolescent development.”
But some like Mason Tvert, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, refused to take the study at face value. “The article expressly states that there remains no evidence that using marijuana causes depression, suicide or dropping out of school,” Tvert said. “It simply shows that teens who are prone to developing these problems are more likely to have used marijuana.”
Approximately 7% of high school seniors are daily or almost daily marijuana users, according to the 2013 Monitoring the Future survey conducted in the U.S.
A New Zealand man is accused of drugging at least 16 male travelers staying at the Main Street Lodge in the North Island town of Kaitaia. Michael Harris, 56, who owns the hostel, was charged with 39 offenses against the 16 men who were between the ages of 18 and 25.
The charges include indecent assault, aggravating wounding related to allegedly drugging the victims, and making intimate video recordings, according to the police. The victims were mostly young overseas tourists who had stayed at the lodge over the past two-and-a-half years.
Police want to find out whether there are other victims and have asked past visitors to the lodge to contact them. “These victims are unlikely to know that something has happened to them, although they may have their suspicions,” Detective Senior Sergeant Rhys Johnston said in a statement.
Since the news of Harris’ arrest was made public, more than 20 potential victims have contacted Johnston, from countries including Germany, England, Scotland, and the United States. “This is an ongoing investigation and we have a lot of work ahead to assess evidence and establish if there are further victims we are not yet aware of,” Johnston said.
Harris is currently in custody and appeared in Kaitaia District Court on Thursday.
According to a recent study, the average person checks their cellular phone every six-and-a-half minutes. That’s approximately 150 times over the course of the 16 waking hours each day, which has underscored the possibility that people do become addicted to their phones. But a new company called Calm has stepped in with a phone app to combat the growing problem of phone addiction.
Unlike Pause, which challenges users to stay off their phones, Checky is designed to make the user aware of how often they are using their phones by showing the number of times they check their phones while also breaking down how the phone was used during that time period.
As TechCrunch noted, the app is not dissimilar to Moment, which also tracks time spent each day on a phone. The difference is that while Moment bases its information on the number of minutes spent on the phone, Checky measures the number of times the phone is accessed by the user, either for quick email checks or lengthy internet visits.
Calm founder Alex Tew is an enthusiastic proponent of his own product, as it appears to help curb his own phone addiction. “Most days I check my phone over 100 times,” he said. “Today I’m at 76, so far. Having this new awareness makes it easier to control my phone usage.”
And if Checky doesn’t quite quell the habit, it also conveniently provides the user with an advertisement through which they can access Calm’s other app, also called Calm, which provides relaxation and meditation tools.
For most teenagers and young adults smoking marijuana is hardly a novel concept, but a new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has found that the reasons for doing so are not as obvious.
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital found that many adolescents and young adults are smoking marijuana as a coping mechanism for upsetting or traumatic events in their lives. Using 40 regular pot smokers as participants, subjects were given a handheld computer that signaled them four to six times per day with questions about their mood, who they were with, and whether they used or were about to use marijuana. They also checked into the computer system just before or after they smoked pot.
After assessing the data from over 3,600 reports filed by the participants, the scientists found that negative emotions were higher in the 24 hours leading up to marijuana use. However, positive emotions didn’t increase after they smoked, and researchers found that using marijuana as a coping tool for these emotions could lead to an increased dependence on the drug.
“One of the challenges is that people often may use marijuana to feel better but may feel worse afterward,” said lead researcher Dr. Lydia A. Shrier. “Marijuana use can be associated with anxiety and other negative states. People feel bad, they use, and they might momentarily feel better, but then they feel worse. They don’t necessarily link feeling bad after using with the use itself, so it can become a vicious circle.”
Despite the potential downsides of marijuana, more states are also beginning to consider the potential upsides of legalizing it. A bill recently introduced in New York by Democratic State Senator Liz Krueger could make the drug legal for recreational use as early as next year.
Molly seemed to be popping up everywhere from college parties to Miley Cyrus lyrics, but the U.S. Justice Department has reported that use of the synthetic drug is beginning to slow down.
Statistics from the 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment have reported that the number of teenagers using Molly dropped from 3.6% in 2011 to 3.1% in 2012. Law enforcement officials also seized 1.9 million doses of this particular form of MDMA in 2011, compared to around 173,000 doses in 2012. More anecdotally, a local college poll of 25 students at Idaho State University found that only three had seen the drug before and just two could get access to it from someone they knew.
However, the drug has continued to wreck havoc at concerts across the country and during the summer festival circuit. Thirty-six people attending an electronic dance music (EDM) concert in Boston were hospitalized and the culprit in most cases was a bad batch of Molly. It was also cited as the cause of death for two people at last year’s Electronic Zoo Festival in New York City and a woman attending a performance by DJ Zed at Boston’s House of Blues.
And while use of the drug may have gone down overall, it still remains a major problem ion college campuses and has left school officials debating what the best counseling approach is for Molly.
“You don’t know what you’re getting,” said Cassandra Nichols, director of Counseling and Testing Services at Washington State University (WSU). “(People think) that somehow because it’s in pill form, and it looks like a prescription pill, that it’s something that’s regulated, which it’s not. Or that somehow it being a more pure form of Ecstasy means something; it doesn’t.”
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