Teenage marijuana use is at its highest in 30 years, but does that predict a gloomy future for a lot of our young people? Not necessarily. According to the hopeful findings of a new Australian study, if kids stop taking drugs before they step firmly into adulthood, their drug use is unlikely to harm their futures.
The data focused on marijuana and amphetamine use. And though its message is mostly upbeat, there’s a caveat: In order for the health and wellbeing of users to be sustained later in life, they have to stop taking drugs by the time they reach the age of thirty. If they do, then research shows their relationships and economic success, as well as their general quality of life, will be unaffected.
The key is whether drug use persists over time. The longer these recreational drugs are used, the worse the consequences. The study finds that for those who are still using marijuana or amphetamines into their 30’s and beyond, they will likely have their adult lives negatively affected.
Given how much stronger marijuana is today, its effect on your child may be much different than you might have experienced.
A large majority of those who had ever met the criteria for problematic drug use were no longer using at clinically significant levels by age 21, according to the findings. At 19, 22 percent of the teens reported using drugs. By 21 this had dropped to just under 20 percent of the participants reporting marijuana use, and far fewer — under 1 percent — reported using amphetamines. Three percent reported using both drugs. Nine years later, at age 30, more than a third of the cannabis users had continued their drug use, with 60 percent of those who used both drugs continuing to use them.
The use of cannabis at age 30 was strongly — and negatively — related to achievement, with high consumption in adulthood associated with the lowest rates of life success.
“What seems to best predict low life success outcomes is the persistence (over a longer course of time) of cannabis and amphetamine use,” researcher, Jake Najman from the University of Queensland, Australia, said in a press release. “Our findings linking problem behavior and school problems in adolescence with drug use and life success represent an opportunity for policymakers to alter the young person's life trajectory.”
The key is whether drug use persists over time. The longer an individual's involvement with these recreational drugs, the worse the consequences.
Kids who stopped or seriously tapered their drug use in their twenties had much greater life success. Given the high rates of drug use by adolescents, the study’s authors believe more research into interventions to prevent the persistence of drug use into adulthood and its subsequent negative effects is needed.
- Ask what they have heard about using marijuana. Listen carefully, pay attention, and try not to interrupt. Avoid making negative or angry comments.
- Offer your child facts about the risks and consequences of smoking or vaping marijuana or send them links to the information so they research them themselves.
- Ask your child to give examples of the effects of marijuana. This will help you make sure that your child understands what you talked about.
- Explain that research tells us that the brain continues to mature into our 20s. While it is developing, there is greater risk of harm from marijuana use.
- If you choose to talk to your child about your own experiences with drugs, be honest about why you used and the pressures that may have contributed to your use. Be careful not to minimize the dangers of marijuana or other drugs, and be open about any negative experiences you may have had. Given how much stronger marijuana is today, its effect on your child would likely be much different from what you experienced.
The study is published in the journal, Addiction, Research & Theory.