By M. Gideon Hoyle
Marijuana (cannabis) use is fairly common in large segments of the teen population in the U.S. and a number of other countries. While many teenagers believe that their involvement in the consumption of this drug produces little or no negative impact, the current scientific consensus shows that adolescent marijuana consumption has a range of well-established potential harmful consequences. In a study published in September 2014 in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. looked at seven specific outcomes of teen cannabis use that can have a detrimental impact on the lives of adults age 30 or younger.
Teen Marijuana Use
Recently released statistics from a nationwide, National Institute on Drug Abuse-sponsored survey called Monitoring the Future indicate that roughly 22.7 percent of all American teenagers enrolled in 12th grade use marijuana or another cannabis product called hashish in the average month; a smaller number of 12th graders (6.5 percent) consume marijuana or hashish on a daily basis. Eighteen percent of American 10th graders are monthly marijuana or hashish consumers; the rate of daily use in this grade is approximately 4 percent. Among American 8th graders, the rate of monthly marijuana/hashish use is 7 percent; just 1.1 percent of 8th graders use at least one of these forms of cannabis every day.
More than 60 percent of U.S. 12th graders don’t think it’s harmful to consume marijuana on a regular basis, the recent Monitoring the Future findings show. This scientifically mistaken point of view is also held by roughly 54 percent of 10th graders and 39 percent of 8th graders. Larger percentages of 12th, 10th and 8th graders disapprove of regular marijuana use. However, broadly speaking, perception of the harmfulness of marijuana and disapproval of marijuana use are declining among America’s teenagers.
Compared to the rest of the population, teenage marijuana consumers are almost 100 percent more likely to develop diagnosable cases of cannabis addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes. If a teenager consumes marijuana every day or nearly every day, his or her odds of developing this form of addiction increase by at least another 50 percent and may rise as much as four times higher. Other previously reported forms of marijuana-related harm found in adolescent users include possible disruption of the normal course of teen brain development and the onset of potentially permanent thought and memory impairment in heavy consumers.
Impact Of Marijuana Use In Young Adulthood
In the study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers from nine Australian institutions, New Zealand’s University of Otago and the University of Washington used information gathered from two long-term Australian projects and one long-term New Zealand project to examine the connection between five levels of marijuana intake before the age of 18 and seven possible harmful outcomes that appear at some point between the ages of 18 and 30.
The five levels of marijuana intake under consideration were lack of use, use less than every 30 days, use at least once every 30 days, use at least once a week and use essentially every day.
The seven forms of harm under consideration were a reduced rate of high school graduation, a reduced rate of college graduation, the development of cannabis addiction, involvement in other forms of drug use, any attempt to commit suicide, the presence of diagnosable depression symptoms and reliance on some sort of public assistance for day-to-day survival.
The researchers concluded that any given teenager’s level of involvement in marijuana use clearly corresponds to his or her odds of experiencing one or more of the seven identified harmful outcomes in young adulthood. The worst effects appear in teens who consume the drug daily before the age of 18. These individuals have substantially diminished chances of graduating from high school or college, as well as significantly heightened chances of developing a cannabis addiction, going on to use at least one other illegal or illicit drug and attempting to commit suicide before passing age 30.
Overall, the study’s authors conclude that adolescent marijuana intake has a host of negative effects that can last at least through the first decade of adult life. They believe that public health campaigns that prevent teen marijuana consumption (or at least delay this consumption to a later stage of life) may produce widespread improvements in social outcomes during the transition between adolescence and adulthood.
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