“Don’t smoke marijuana as a teenager because it will screw you up as an adult.” Countless teenagers have been told something like this, either through anti-marijuana propaganda or parental wisdom.
And it makes sense — maybe introducing psychoactive drugs on a still-developing teenage brain isn’t the smartest of decisions.
Now, a new study that tracked the lives of teenage marijuana smokers for decades reveals how smoking marijuana as a teenager really affects one’s physical and mental health as an adult.
“What we found was a little surprising,” said Jordan Bechtold, the study’s lead researcher and a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The new study, published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, analyzed data collected by the Pittsburgh Youth Study, which examined the relationship between social and delinquent behavior and drug use among boys in the Pittsburgh public school system.
The Pittsburgh study tracked a random sample of 400 black and white boys from the seventh grade up until they were 36 years old. The boys were organised into four groups based on their level of marijuana use: non-users, early chronic users, adolescence-only users, and late-teen through adulthood users. The study also established controls for risk factors including hard drug use, socioeconomic status and whether or not they had health insurance.
Researchers found that pot smoking as an adolescent is not related to any physical or mental health problems later on in life, including but not limited to asthma, allergies, high blood pressure and mood disorders. There was no significant difference in mental or physical health issues across the groups. Even when the models were run without controlling for outside factors, the results remained the same.
The results of the study oppose the conclusions of other studies on the subject, so the researchers developed potential explanations for the differences.
First, this study was a prospective study as opposed to a retrospective study, meaning the study followed groups over time to track different outcomes and factors rather than looking back on past studies to develop a conclusion through correlation.
Researchers also noted that their results might have been different if they looked at smaller psychological issues like paranoia or even “odd thinking” rather than major psychotic disorders.
Since the study subjects reported their own relative usage and self-reported their personal health outcomes, each specific case may argue for different results and include a different degree of reliability. Additionally, the sample size came from a single geographic area and included only men.
While the results shed some light on how marijuana usage may (or rather, may not) affect health over time, before stoners toast themselves on their good health, the same journal published another study this week finding marijuana use in college can contribute to a low GPA, skipping class and delayed graduation.