Teens' Regular Marijuana or Alcohol Use Threatens Later Success

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As the nation moves more and more, state by state, towards normalizing recreational marijuana use, there's a continuing need to better understand how the drug affects different segments of society. 

One key demographic is adolescents, and researchers studying teens and young adults have some disquieting news about those whose pot use is heavy, chronic or dependent: Life's "successes" – economic potential and educational achievement, among them – are threatened. The same goes for those who regularly consume alcohol.

That's the primary finding of a new study presented Sunday in Atlanta by health researchers from the University of Connecticut, at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, or APHA. They determined that consistent pot smoking and/or drinking with teens increased the likelihood that years later they'd be limited to "lower levels of education," and that they "were less likely to be employed full time, were less likely to get married and had lower social economic potential," according to a statement released by the university.

"This study found that chronic marijuana use in adolescence was negatively associated with achieving important developmental milestones in young adulthood," according to the study's lead author Dr. Elizabeth Harari. "Awareness of marijuana's potentially deleterious effects will be important moving forward." 

The study, comprised of 1,165 subjects from across the country, tracked teenage marijuana and alcohol consumption for those 12 and over, with continued monitoring at two-year intervals until the participants reached the ages between 25 and 34.

Data was gathered from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, or COGA, which was funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"COGA investigators are following many subjects over the years and are using this extensive and growing database to examine several significant research topics," said Dr. Grace Chan, a statistician in the UConn Health department of psychiatry.

More than half (56%) of the subjects were female, but the results applied more to males. "Dependent young men saw less achievement across all four measurements," stated APHA, in a news release, "while dependent women were less likely to obtain a college degree and had lower social economic potential, but their likelihood of obtaining full-time employment or marrying was not significantly affected."

Two-thirds of the American subjects studied (67%) were of European descent, 26% were African American, and 7% were of another origin, but mostly Hispanic. There was no mention that the study was published in any journal as yet, but here is the extent of the data released to the public on APHA's website.