Teen pot smokers and drinkers struggle to achieve some of the hallmarks of adult success, including obtaining a college degree, getting married, holding down a full-time job and earning a good living, the researchers found.
“Parents should try to delay their children’s onset of use as much as possible,” said research supervisor Victor Hesselbrock, the chairman of addiction studies at the University of Connecticut.
The researchers have been tracking the life course of 1165 young adults from across the US, most of whom come from a family with a history of alcoholism.
Participants’ habits were first assessed at the age of 12. After that, the researchers checked in on them at two-year intervals, up until age 25 to 34.
But as they got older, the paths of those who used or became dependent on alcohol or pot as teens deviated from those of kids who stayed clean, according to lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Harari, who did the analysis as part of her residency training at the University of Connecticut.
Even those teens who only used pot and alcohol without forming a habit wound up achieving less in their lives.
Male users had a harder time finding a full-time job and earning good pay, while female users were less likely to get a college degree.
“As America continues this momentum towards legalisation of cannabis, results like these should serve as important speed bumps to remind us cannabis is not harmless,” said Dr Timothy Brennan, an attending physician with The Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “When combined with alcohol, it can be quite problematic.”
Because the study tracked kids over time, it provides solid evidence that substance use predates problems later in life, Hesselbrock said.
Dr Michael Ketteringham, medical director of integrated medicine and psychiatry with Staten Island University Hospital, said this sort of study probably won’t stem the tide of marijuana legalisation in the US.
“Such measures are supported by the majority of Americans, and the imprisonment of people caught in possession of cannabis can be considered to be at crisis levels in the US, resulting in the disruption of families and other outcomes that are associated with having a criminal history,” he said.
He added, however, that the easing of criminal penalties should not be considered evidence that adolescent cannabis use doesn’t do harm.
Hesselbrock also recommends that parents start talking about substance use with their kids at an early age. - New York Times