Marijuana Use Associated With Multiple Negative Outcomes In Teens
The legalization of marijuana in many states has led to increased availability and experimentation. While many individuals with chronic pain related to a serious injury or illness attest to its medicinal uses, there are still concerns about the recreational use of the drug.
Research has shown marijuana to be a “gateway drug” because experimentation and recreational use can give a user access to more dangerous drugs that carry a higher likelihood of addiction and more serious side effects.
Marijuana Users Experiencing Psychosis Even After Use
Another important concern related to marijuana is research connecting its use to ongoing psychotic episodes. Some studies have shown that users can experience psychosis, not only while under the immediate effects of the drug but for extended period following use.
When teens begin using marijuana, however, the risks may multiply. Teen brains are still developing and any substance use can interrupt the important processes occurring in the structures of the brain, causing long-term cognitive impairment.
A study led by Willemijn A. Van Gastel of the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience at the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands examined the effect of marijuana on mental health. While many studies have documented the connection between psychological problems and marijuana use, it is unclear whether cannabis use leads to an increased risk of mental disorders or if those with mental health problems are more likely to use cannabis.
The findings were published in Psychological Medicine.
The study analyzed surveys administered to over 10,000 students aged 11 to 16. The questions on the survey requested information about substance use, including cannabis, alcohol and cigarettes.
The students were also asked about other aspects of life, including whether they had experienced any problems at school or if there was any conflict at home. They were also asked about whether there was any history of molestation and other environmental risk factors for mental health symptoms.
Multiple Problems In School And Behavior Associated With Marijuana Use
The results of the analysis showed that there was an association between marijuana use and psychosocial problems. When other risk factors were taken into account, however, the association was not as strong. In addition, there were risk factors that were associated with negative psychosocial outcomes that were also associated with increased levels of marijuana use, including behavioral problems at school, missing school due to illness, truancy and alcohol and cigarette use.
The authors of the study believe that the presence of substance use, low self-esteem and difficulties with mood disorder symptoms could lead to psychosocial problems and marijuana use.
The researchers were surprised to find that there was no evidence of a relationship between the level of marijuana use and the level of poor outcomes in psychosocial measures. This suggests that the risk factors are a critical component in determining whether marijuana use leads to other negative outcomes.
Can Marijuana Use Indicate If A Teen Might Be At Risk For Mental Health Problems?
The authors note that the findings can be understood as a way to predict future negative behavioral and overall psychological and psychosocial wellbeing. In other words, marijuana use can indicate whether a teen might be at risk for mental health problems.
Drug Prevention And Education To Reduce Risk Of Substance Abuse
The findings are helpful for targeting teens that may be in need of prevention and education efforts to improve mental health and reduce the risk of additional substance use. Screening teens for substance use may also help identify possible areas of high risk for mental disorders.
While marijuana is often considered a harmless substance when used in moderation, many of the effects of the drug are not fully explored. Parents are encouraged to talk openly and often with their teens about the risks associated with marijuana use, including the possibility of mental disorders.