Teens Who Smoke Pot Daily Could Have More Problems Later in Life

By Victoria Kim 09/18/14

A recent study has claimed that the more frequent the use, the more adversely affected users can become.

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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.

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