Marijuana use by adolescents and young adults, including self-reported chronic use, is not positively associated with poor outcomes later in life, according to an assessment of longitudinal data published this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Investigators from the Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Rutgers University examined whether male subjects who consumed cannabis between the ages of 15 and 26 differed in terms of socioeconomic, social and life satisfaction outcomes by their mid-30s as compared to those who either abstained from the substance or only consumed it sparingly.
Authors reported that initially observed differences between the groups were largely eliminated once investigators controlled for co-occurring use of other substances and several pre-existing confounding factors in early adolescence.
They concluded: “After statistically accounting for confounding variables, chronic marijuana users were not at a heightened risk for maladjustment in adulthood except for lower SES (socioeconomic status) among Black men. Chronic users were more likely to have friends and partners who also used marijuana.”
The investigators’ findings follow the publication of a previous paper issued in August by the same research team. In that study, authors reported that young men who consumed cannabis during adolescence and/or young adulthood did not experience a heightened risk of developing physical or mental health problems in their mid-30s after researchers controlled for several potential confounding factors, including subjects’ socioeconomic status; co-occurring use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; and access to medical care and health insurance.
“Overall, data from this sample provide little to no evidence to suggest that patterns of marijuana use from adolescence to young adulthood…were negatively related to the indicators of physical or mental health studied,” they concluded. “This is particularly striking given that men in the early onset chronic group were using marijuana (on average) once per week by late adolescence and continued using marijuana approximately 3-4 times a week from age 20 to 26 years.”
The findings contradicted researchers’ initial hypothesis, as their stated motivation for conducting the study was to “provide empirical evidence regarding the potential adverse consequences of marijuana legalization.”