Teen Pot Use Could Lead To Academic, Mental Health Issues, According To Study

By McCarton Ackerman 06/30/16

The study also found that marijuana use was more damaging than alcohol use on the adolescent brain.

Teen Pot Use Could Lead To Academic, Mental Health Issues, According To Study

Recreational alcohol and marijuana use during teen years doesn’t come without consequences. A new study has linked this substance use to negative academic performance and mental health issues.

The findings, published in the journal Addiction, were released by the nonprofit RAND Corporation. Data from more than 6,500 students was collected by having them complete seven surveys over a seven-year period between 2008 and 2015. All the students had participated in a substance abuse prevention program called CHOICE, which was conducted in 16 middle schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

They noted that alcohol and pot use among both middle schoolers and high schoolers are more likely to cause academic and mental health issues in high school, but found that marijuana use was more damaging of the two. The study showed that marijuana use was predictive of lower academic functioning, poorer mental health, more delinquent behavior and being less prepared for school.

"Many youth tend to think that alcohol use has more consequences than marijuana use and therefore view marijuana use as safer than drinking," said Elizabeth D'Amico, lead author of the study and senior behavioral scientist at RAND. "However, youth need to better understand the harms of marijuana use, such as the potential effect on their developing brain and how it can affect performance in both adolescence and adulthood."

Perhaps surprisingly, there were racial differences in the results. Among those who used alcohol and pot at the same level, Asian and multi-ethnic youth reported having more physical problems than white youth. Hispanic, Asian and African-American teenagers also reported lower academic performance and feeling less academically prepared than their white peers.

However, the researchers also noted that pre-existing factors could have contributed to the racial differences in results. These include parental involvement, racial discrimination and neighborhood quality.

The findings are particularly timely because teen marijuana use is on the rise in the U.S. The most recent Monitoring the Future survey, released last December by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed that daily marijuana use among 12th graders (6%) surpassed daily cigarette use (5.5%) for the first time ever. In general, access to legal drugs was a greater issue for teenagers than access to illegal drugs.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.