Consumption of illegal drugs among teenagers or adolescents is a problem that has serious health and social concerns. Marijuana addiction has increased significantly in the US since the mid-2000s (Hasin et al. 602). Consuming marijuana during adolescent years may have serious consequences in adult life. Heavy use of marijuana can lead to delinquency, suicide, violence, unprotected sex, and antisocial behavior. Other than these social factors, it may have a negative health impact. This study aims to understand the effect of marijuana use by adolescents based on the results obtained from recent research on the issue. The paper tries to apprehend how the studies were conducted and the effect that most of them have detected to be the most significant consequence of marijuana abuse among adolescents.
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Brief History of Adolescent Drug Use and Effects
The earlier research has concentrated on understanding the trend in the use of substances, especially marijuana, among adolescents, and estimates how this particular substance abuse affects them. The literature on the outcome of marijuana use can be broadly divided into three distinct consequences – social, psychological, and health-related effects. In this paper, we will review five articles related to each of the three types of effects studied by researchers.
The first article reviewed is “A longitudinal study of cannabis use and mental health from adolescence to early adulthood” by Rob McGee, Sheila Williams, Richie Poulton, and Terrie Moffitt (McGee et al. 491). The study aims to understand the adverse health effects of marijuana abuse and show that increased marijuana consumption among adolescents can raise the chances of brain damage among teenagers (McGee et al. 492). The research conducted by McGee et al. aims to understand the long-term outcome of cannabis-use specifically on the mental health of the users. The research studies the mental health condition of cannabis users from the age group of 15 to 21.
Sample participants are enrolled in a longitudinal investigation wherein their mental health and behavior are studied. These respondents were using cannabis and self-reported their use at the age of 13. The mental health disorder faced by these self-reported marijuana users at later ages of 15, 18, and 21 are studied. The statistical analysis was done using bivariate logistics regression. The results of the research suggest that the adolescents with mental disorders, who are heavy users of marijuana, increase its usage as adults. Further, smoking and alcoholism affected adolescents more when they reported having a low parental attachment. The results of the research indicate that early habits of smoking and alcoholism were predictors of later use of marijuana and related mental health disorder. However, cannabis use was not significantly found to increase depression and anxiety among users.
The second article studied is “A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Adolescent Cannabis Use on High School Completion” by Michael T. Lynskey, Carolyn Coffey, Louisa Degenhardt, John B. Carlin, and George Patton (685). This article specifically studies the consequence of the weekly marijuana usage among adolescents and their increased propensity to leave school early (Lynskey et al. 686). This research studied adolescents within the age group of 15 to 18. The total sample consisted of 1608 school students.
According to the research, the weekly marijuana intake among adolescents increased the chances of leaving school early. It showed that the younger the adolescent marijuana users are, the higher the risk of leaving school early is. However, this trend declines progressively with age. The reasons cited for increased propensity of school leaving among cannabis-using adolescents are the amotivational syndrome, inability to adjust to adult roles, and cognitive impairment.
The third article studied is “Does Heavy Adolescent Marijuana Lead to Criminal Involvement in Adulthood? Evidence from a Multiwave Longitudinal Study of Urban African Americans” by Kerry M. Green, Elaine E. Doherty, Elizabeth A. Stuart, and Margaret E. Ensminger (117). The article finds a relation between heavy use of marijuana among adolescents and increased tendency towards criminal behavior (Green et al. 118). The study hypotheses that long-term marijuana use during adolescence tends to increase the risk of criminal intent among regular users. 702 African Americans were interviewed for the research (Green et al. 118). The research studied the effect of heavy marijuana use among African American adolescents and adult criminal involvement. They studied the risk of criminal involvement in areas like drug trafficking, property, and violent crime.
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The criminal involvement was measured through the respondents’ incarceration statistics. The number of drug use among respondents was then regressed with their criminal activity. The regression analysis showed that when as adolescents the respondents were heavy users of marijuana, they were more inclined to drug and property crimes and had a high rate of criminal incarceration. However, these respondents did not have a high risk of inducing into violent crimes. Further, the research found that heavy marijuana use in adolescence led to higher risk of high-school expulsion. Further, adolescents who were heavy users of marijuana escalated to use heroin and/or cocaine when older. This study provides a noteworthy contribution to the literature on the effect of marijuana use among adolescents. This is because it shows that curtailing the high use of marijuana among adolescents could reduce drug and property-related criminal activity in adulthood.
The fourth article studied is “Functional Consequences of Marijuana Use in Adolescents” by J. Jacobus, S. Bava, M. Cohen-Zion, O. Mahmood, and S. F. Tapert (560). The study aims to understand the neuropsychological functioning of the brain, brain structure, and sleep-related issues among heavy marijuana users (Jacobus et al. 560). According to the research, neuromaturation during adolescence results in changes in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns, which increases the propensity for substance abuse (Jacobus et al. 560). It is a meta-analysis of the previous literature on the consequence of marijuana consumption during adolescence and it distinguishes four significant effects – sleep-related concerns, brain functioning, brain structure, and cognitive consequences.
The meta-analysis found that marijuana consumption has a significant detrimental effect on the domains of memory, attention, processing of information, and other executive functions such as planning and fluency. However, the research shows that literature on the subject has indicated that if the marijuana users began to consume it early, it resulted in greater impairment of neurocognitive performance. Further, the research shows that brain structure abnormalities are caused by heavy marijuana consumption (Jacobus et al. 564). Sleep-related problems excavate among adolescents who are heavy users of marijuana. The result shows that adolescent marijuana use increases the chance of periodic limb movement after a few days of abstinence (Jacobus et al. 569). Brain functioning is also altered after a month of abstinence.
The fifth article studied is “Risk Factors Predicting Changes in Marijuana Involvement in Teenagers” by Marianne BM Van den Bree and Wallace B. Pickworth (311). The aim of the study is to understand the various psychological and health outcomes that arise due to high consumption of marijuana among adolescents (Van den Bree and Pickworth 312). It tries to identify the risk factors associated with marijuana consumption at different stages of addiction. The research collected primary data from personal interviews (Van den Bree and Pickworth 312). The researchers hypothesized five stages of marijuana involvement: (1) beginning of experimental usage, (2) beginning to use marijuana regularly, (3) moving towards using marijuana heavily, (4) inability to stop using marijuana after experimental use, and (5) inability to stop using marijuana regularly. The researchers interviewed middle and high school students (Van den Bree and Pickworth 313). The results showed that peer involvement with substances, delinquency, and school problems were the main social effects of marijuana use among adolescents (Van den Bree and Pickworth 315). The analysis showed that when marijuana is used for a prolonged period, it increases the risk of delinquency.
Has the public perception changed?
Marijuana use is believed to increase criminal behavior and delinquency among adolescents. The reviewed articles confirm that belief. However, the public opinion about the issue has changed, as most people consider marijuana use unhealthy. Moreover, fewer adolescents smoke cigarettes indicating a changing perspective about any kind of addiction.
Findings and Conclusion
The research findings show that marijuana use has two broad effects on adolescents – social and health-related. Social problems that have been identified by previous studies are criminal activity, delinquency, depression, antisocial behavior, and propensity to expulsion from school. The health problems that have been identified by the studies are related to mental and psychological health. Heavy use of marijuana increases the risk of mental disorders and other psychological problems. It also tends to increase neurological problems and alter the behavioral pattern.
I believe the methodologies adopted by the articles to be correct. However, I would adopt a different approach and try to ascertain how marijuana addiction affects not only the addicts but also their immediate society in order to gauge the social effects.
Green, Kerry M., et al. “Does Heavy Adolescent Marijuana Lead to Criminal Involvement in Adulthood? Evidence from a Multiwave Longitudinal Study of Urban African Americans.” Drug Alcohol Dependence, vol. 112, no. 1-2, 2010, pp. 117–25.
Hasin, Deborah S., et al. “State Medical Marijuana Laws and Adolescent Marijuana Use in The United States: 1991 – 2014.” Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 2, no. 7, 2015, pp. 601–8.
Jacobus, J., et al. “Functional Consequences of Marijuana Use in Adolescents.” Pharmacology Biochem Behavior, vol. 92. no. 4, 2009, pp. 559-65.
Lynskey, Michael T., et al. “A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Adolescent Cannabis Use on High School Completion.” Addiction, vol. 98, 2003, pp. 685-92.
McGee, Rob, et al. “A longitudinal study of cannabis use and mental health from adolescence to early adulthood.” Addiction, vol. 95, no. 4, 2000, pp. 491-503.
Van den Bree, Marianne B. M., and Wallace B. Pickworth. “Risk Factors Predicting Changes in Marijuana Involvement in Teenagers.” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol 62, 2005, pp. 311-19.