Study: No Link Between Teen Marijuana Use and Mental Illness

Mental Illness

When it comes to the marijuana debate, no group is invoked more often than the teenagers of America. According to some politicians, if marijuana is legalized, our teenagers will all become drop out dopers with a slew of physical and mental illnesses, such as cancer, asthma, depression or psychosis. But according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, no such link can actually be found.

Specifically, researchers found no link between teen marijuana use and the development of psychotic symptoms, lifetime depression, anxiety, allergies, headaches, cancer, asthma or high blood pressure.

“What we found was a little surprising,” said lead researcher Jordan Bechtold in a statement. “There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence.”

Conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Rutgers University, researchers tracked 408 males from adolescence to their mid-30s. No women were included in the study.

Subjects were divided into four different groups based upon their marijuana use. Those groups were: low or non-users (46 percent); early chronic users (22 percent); participants who smoked marijuana only during adolescence (11 percent); and those who began using marijuana in their late teen years and continued into adulthood (21 percent).

Researchers controlled for mitigating factors such as access to healthcare, use of other drugs, cigarette smoking, etc. Even ignoring those factors, very few participants in the study had mental health issues.

The study itself was an offshoot of another research project, the Pittsburgh Youth Study, which tracked 14-year-old males in an effort to better understand different health and social issues. The participants were annually or semi-annually surveyed for 12 years. Researchers then followed up with study participants in 2009-2010.

The racial breakdown of the study was 54 percent black, 42 percent white, and 4 percent of various racial ethnicities.

It is important to remember that while the results of this study may come as great news to the marijuana industry, it is still an incomplete picture that underscores the need for more research.

With no women participating in the study, we only have half of what we need to draw an accurate assumption about marijuana’s mental health effects; and as Bechtold stated in the press release for this study, “it’s a very complicated issue and one study should not be taken in isolation.”

However, this should not spoil the importance of this study. For years marijuana has been used as the scapegoat of aberrant behavior and mental illness and this research undermines that unsupported assumption.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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