Chronic Cannabis Users Have Money Problems, According to New Study

By John Lavitt 04/07/16

Adults over 18 who were dependent on marijuana experienced worst money troubles than their peers who were alcoholics.

Study Says Regular Marijuana Users Have Money Problems
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A new study partially supported by funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals that heavy pot use affects both economic and social status. Basically, if you are a chronic marijuana smoker, you're likely to earn less money than your parents. The findings of the UC Davis study are based on epidemiological data that tracked people born in New Zealand in 1971 and 1972 who went on to become heavy marijuana users. Beyond the financial challenges, chronic cannabis users also tend to end up in a lower social class than their parents. 

Headed by epidemiologist Magdalena Cerdá of the UC Davis Health System and researchers at Duke University and King’s College London, the study was based on the findings of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study in New Zealand. The long-running New Zealand program has tracked human health, development and behavior of research subjects through childhood and young adulthood. A focus of the tracking is to measure long-term socioeconomic outcomes. 

Published last week in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the NIDA-funded study found that chronic marijuana smokers, who use cannabis four or more days a week for many years, are more likely to wind up in a lower social and economic class than their parents. Gleaning information from the New Zealand data, researchers found that both heavy cannabis and alcohol users experienced some decline in social and economic status. The marijuana users, however, had more pronounced financial difficulties, such as difficulties in paying for basic living expenses and food.

“I think the most important finding is that people who smoke cannabis regularly over many years end up in a lower social class than their parents,” commented Cerdá. “They end up in jobs that are lower paid, less prestigious and that require lower skills.” Study participants who were either non-marijuana smokers or, as Cerdá explained, “didn’t use cannabis over many years ended up in a higher social class than their parents … it’s very important to understand what the long-term economic and social consequences of regular use of marijuana will be.”

Cerdá said researchers also considered whether marijuana’s status in New Zealand could have led to negative consequences as a result of people participating in an unlawful activity. The question was whether the unlawful activity and subsequent criminal records led to the clear reduction in economic outcomes. Researcher Avshalom Caspi, a psychologist with appointments at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, however, clearly stated that this was not the case.

Explaining the outcomes, Caspi said, “These findings did not arise because cannabis users were prosecuted and had a criminal record. Even among cannabis users who were never convicted for a cannabis offense, we found that persistent and regular cannabis use was linked to economic and social problems.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.