An Australian-led research report studying the effects of marijuana on adolescents has painted a hairbrained picture of the nation's school-aged potheads. According to the study, teens who toke daily are 60 per cent less likely to complete high school or university compared with those who have never used. In addition, the researchers claimed there was no "safe" level of cannabis use, although the risk of adverse effects does increase with the frequency of usage.
An international research team led by the University of New South Wales' National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre analysed the effects of adolescent cannabis use via three large-scale studies: the Australian Temperament Project, the Christchurch Health and Development Study, and the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study. Collectively, this totaled 3,700 cannabis users.
The study found that cannabis-use in teens often leads to a range of problems in young adult life, including mental health problems, increased substance use and reduced educational attainment:
We recorded clear and consistent associations and dose-response relations between the frequency of adolescent cannabis use and all adverse young adult outcomes. After covariate adjustment, compared with individuals who had never used cannabis, those who were daily users before age 17 years had clear reductions in the odds of high-school completion and degree attainment, and substantially increased odds of later cannabis dependence, use of other illicit drugs, and suicide attempt.
If the results are to be believed, adolescents who use cannabis daily are 60 per cent less likely to finish high school and seven times more likely to attempt suicide. They are also 18 times more likely to develop a cannabis dependence and eight times as likely to use other illicit drugs in later life.
It's worth noting that the risks increase with the amount of the drug being taken, although the researchers stressed that there was no usage level at which no risk was present.
The report concludes that prevention or delay of cannabis use in adolescence is likely to have broad health and social benefits. Efforts to reform cannabis legislation should therefore be carefully assessed to prevent potentially adverse developmental effects among teens.
Cannabis is currently the most widely used illegal drug in Australia, with around four per cent of 14-19 year olds using the drug at least once per week.