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Study Shows Surprisingly Few Negative Impacts on Kids Who Use MarijuanaTim King Salem-News.com
They cut class and don't always have the best relationships with their parents, but youth today who smoke cannabis may not face the perils suggested by traditional institutions.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The oldest continuously published pediatric journal in the country, a Journal of the American Medical Association called the "Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine", has released new information indicating that pot smoking teens tend to function at better levels than teens who also smoke tobacco, and better in some ways than kids who abstain from both.
Completed in Switzerland, the study also found that those who use only cannabis were more socially driven, and showed no more psychosocial problems than those who had never taken either of the substances.
As far as marijuana leading to harder drugs, the authors of the study say an accurate listing of the problems actually fall in a different order, and that cancer related illnesses suffered by cigarette smokers are the biggest risk of all.
"The gateway theory hypothesizes that the use of legal drugs (tobacco and alcohol) is the previous step to cannabis consumption. However, recent research also indicates that cannabis use may precede or be simultaneous to tobacco use and that, in fact, its use may reinforce cigarette smoking or lead to nicotine addiction independently of smoking status."
The study conducted by J. C. Suris, M.D., Ph.D., University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and team examined information from a 2002 national survey, involving 5,263 Swiss citizens aged 16-20 years. 455 smoked just marijuana, while 1,703 smoked both tobacco and marijuana. Another 3,105 students in the study had never used either substance.
Some Go Without a Cigarette - Characteristics of Cannabis Users Who Have Never Smoked Tobacco, finds that, "Interestingly, our results do not confirm our hypothesis of better overall functioning among abstainers. In fact, what our research indicates is that the main difference between COG (cannabis-only group) youth and abstainers is that the former are more socially driven: they are significantly more likely to practice sports, and they have a better relationship with their peers."
The article says there are some drawbacks, and one of those is an affect on school attendance. But overall, the study indicates few notable problems in the youth who smoke marijuana.
"Even though they are more likely to skip class, they have the same level of good grades; and although they have a worse relationship with their parents, they are not more likely to be depressed. Nevertheless, our results seem to indicate that, although typical of the adolescence process, having good support from friends together with a less solid relationship with parents is a risk factor for occasional cannabis use."
The study says abstainers, kids who have never used cannabis or other illegal drugs, "were less socially engaged and had a stronger orientation toward school."
It confirms that substance use, at least tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis, is largely used by adolescents for socializing purposes. They suggest that this fact could explain the difference between COG youth and abstainers regarding peer relationships.
Other findings indicate that having a good relationship with a best friend was related to increased use of cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco.
Similarly, it was reported that although abstainers are successful in many social arenas, "they socialize less frequently with friends than youth who drink," while a Finnish study indicated that, "moderate use of alcohol among adolescents was associated with a positive self-image in social relationships."
This information would undoubtedly apply differently in the United States where trends have moved toward zero tolerance in recent years, with no legal options for legal underage drinking. Many European nations are more tolerant on this issue.
Another study referenced in the article that was performed in New Zealand, also indicated an association between a high level of connectedness to friends and an increased level of smoking and use of cannabis in the previous month.
"In addition, and contrary to previous research," the study states, "our study does not confirm the negative effect of cannabis on academic performance among COG youth. In our case, they are more likely to be high school students and they report similar grades as abstainers, even though they skip class more often."
However, they say that compared with abstainers, COG adolescents are more likely to have been drunk or to have used illegal drugs in the previous month.
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"Although this finding might be part of the exploratory behavior this specific group seems to have, there is research11 indicating that compared with nonusers, cannabis users have more frequent access to other drugs, such as -methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy)."
But on the other hand, the findings indicate that these youth who use cannabis tend to have a worse relationship with their parents than abstainers.
"Because their school results are not worse, it could be hypothesized that the worse relationship they have with their parents is more likely due to their drug consumption."
They say the main strength of their study is that it is based on a nationally representative sample of adolescents.
"Nevertheless, some limitations need to be stressed. First, the cross-sectional nature of our survey does not allow us to ascertain causality. Second, although technically youth in the nonsmoking group do not smoke cigarettes, we do not know from our data whether they use tobacco to prepare their cannabis cigarettes. Third, school dropouts, who are known to be heavier substance users, were not included in the study. Fourth, because our data are self-reported, there is always room for speculation about the honesty of the answers. However, the fact that the questionnaire was anonymous should minimize any reporting bias."
The study cautions that while the results confirm that CTG (cannabis and tobacco group) youth tend to present psychosocial problems at a higher rate than COG youth and as such constitute a potential target for preventive interventions, the fact that COG youth, compared with abstainers, seem to do at least as well, if not better, in some areas raises 2 questions.
"First, those adolescents who only use cannabis but who may also use some tobacco to prepare their cannabis cigarettes should be advised about the possibility of becoming addicted to nicotine. Second, because the step between being an occasional or a regular cannabis user is not well established, this specific group of adolescents should also be counseled and closely monitored over time. In any case, and even though they do not seem to have great personal, family, or academic problems, the situation of those adolescents who use cannabis but who declare not using tobacco should not be trivialized."
The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, formerly known as the American Journal of Diseases of Children, is the oldest continuously published pediatric journal in the country, dating back to 1911. It is an international peer-reviewed journal published 12 times per year as a Journal of the American Medical Association.
Visit the study: Some Go Without a Cigarette - Characteristics of Cannabis Users Who Have Never Smoked Tobacco here: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
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