By M. Gideon Hoyle
Marijuana use is fairly widespread among American teenagers, especially older teens nearing the transition to young adulthood. Some adolescent users continue to consume the drug as they grow older. However, others temporarily halt their marijuana intake or stop using the drug altogether.
In a study published in September 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of American researchers used data from a nationwide projected called the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to identify the factors that make it more likely than any given teenager will go on to temporarily suspend or complete cease his or her marijuana use.
Teens And Marijuana
According to the 2013 results of an annual, federally supported survey project called Monitoring the Future, over one-fifth (22.7 percent) of all high school seniors across America consume at least some marijuana (or a second form of cannabis called hashish) every month.
This figure points to a slight decrease in comparison to the figures recorded for 2012, but also follows a more general trend of increasing use in effect since roughly 2006. Eighteen percent of 10th graders and 7 percent of eighth graders also consume marijuana or hashish on a monthly basis. (Monitoring the Future only gathers data from teens in these three grades.) Compared to the figures recorded for 2012, rates for monthly intake rose slightly among both 10th and eighth graders.
Despite widespread beliefs about the harmlessness of cannabis, any person who consumes marijuana or hashish on even a casual basis can potentially develop a cannabis addiction. For reasons that may be connected to the incomplete process of normal brain development, teenage users have a much higher risk for addiction than their adult counterparts. While approximately 9 percent of the total cannabis-using population will meet the minimum criteria for diagnosing cannabis addiction, roughly 17 percent of adolescent users will meet these criteria, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports.
The National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health
The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health is an ongoing project designed to measure the long-term health outcomes of a single, nationally representative group of teenagers at regularly scheduled points in time throughout adulthood. When the project began in 1994-1995, these teens were enrolled in grades seven through 12 at schools across the U.S. In addition to health assessments made at the project’s onset, the participants have so far undergone another three follow-up assessments. As of 2014, the last assessment took place in 2008, when most of the participants ranged in age between 24 and 32.
Which Teenagers Stop Using Marijuana
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of Southern California used information gathered from several hundred participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to determine which teen marijuana consumers are most likely to halt their use of the drug either short-term or permanently.
The researchers used data from a sample of 458 participants to assess the factors associated with quitting over the short-term (i.e., within a year). They used data from another sample of 358 participants to assess the factors associated with ceasing marijuana use completely within six years. All of the people in both groups reported using marijuana four times or more in the average month at the start of the National Longitudinal Study.
Factors That Make Teens More Likely To Stop Using Marijuana
The researchers concluded that several factors make it more likely that a teen marijuana user will at least temporarily stop using the drug within a year’s time. These factors include:
- having relatively few friends involved in marijuana use
- maintaining residence in a single location
- having friends inside of school as well as outside of school
Only 18 percent of the marijuana-using teens had halted their intake of the drug six years after first reporting their involvement through the National Longitudinal Study.
The researchers identified several factors that make marijuana cessation over this relatively long span of time more likely to occur, including:
- living in relatively privileged, stable neighborhoods during adolescence
- having friends inside of school
Based on their findings, the study’s authors believe that peer-to-peer influences and neighborhood status both have a fairly prominent impact on the odds that any given marijuana-consuming teen will stop using the drug over the short- or long-term. Specifically, they believe that neighborhood-related factors, in particular, help determine how much marijuana a teen consumes, while a combination of neighborhood-related factors and peer-related factors help determine whether or not a teen will quit using the drug entirely.
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