A new study has made some quite interesting findings regarding cannabis use among adolescents.
It was found, adolescents are over three times more vulnerable to developing a cannabis addiction than adults, but may not be at increased risk of other mental health problems related to the drug.
The study was conducted by researchers from King’s College London and was published recently in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The researchers established that adolescents who used cannabis were no more likely to have higher levels of subclinical depression or anxiety than adults who use cannabis.
They were also no more vulnerable than adult users to the associations with psychotic-like symptoms.
“There is a lot of concern about how the developing teenage brain might be more vulnerable to the long-term effects of cannabis, but we did not find evidence to support this general claim.” – Lead author Dr. Will Lawn.
“Cannabis addiction is a real issue that teenagers should be aware of, as they appear to be much more vulnerable to it than adults.
“On the other hand, the impact that cannabis use has during adolescence on cognitive performance or on depression and anxiety may be weaker than hypothesized.
“But we also replicated previous work that if someone becomes addicted to cannabis, that may increase the severity of subclinical mental health symptoms.
“Given adolescents are also at a greater risk of experiencing difficulties with mental health than adults, they should be proactively discouraged from regular cannabis use.”
According to the Federal Government funded ‘Positive Choices’ information portal, long-term effects of Cannabis use may include:
- Problems with memory and learning
- Decreased motivation and concentration
- Increased risk of respiratory diseases
How did they get the results?
The UK study involved 274 participants, including 76 adolescents (aged 16 and 17) who used cannabis one to seven days per week, alongside similar numbers of adult (aged 26-29) users, and teenage and adult control (comparison) participants.
All involved in the study answered questions about their cannabis use over the last 12 weeks and responded to questionnaires commonly used to assess symptoms of mental ill health.
The researchers found that adolescent cannabis users were three and a half times as likely to develop severe ‘cannabis use disorder’ (addiction) than adult users.
The researchers say adolescents might be more vulnerable to cannabis addiction because of factors such as increased disruption to relationships with parents and teachers, a hyper-plastic (malleable) brain, and a developing endocannabinoid system (the part of the nervous system that THC in cannabis acts upon), and an evolving sense of identity and shifting social life.