Teens who are dependent on marijuana and alcohol are less likely to marry, go to college, or work full time, according to a new study.
For the study, researchers at the University of Connecticut examined data from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) to track the effect teenage alcohol and marijuana use has on the achievement of life goals, defined as educational achievement, full time employment, marriage, and social economic potential.
The study includes 1,165 young adults from across the United States whose habits were first assessed at age 12 and then at two-year intervals until they were between 25 and 34 years old. Most of the study participants had an alcoholic grandparent, parent, aunt, or uncle.
Overall, individuals who were dependent on either marijuana or alcohol during their teen years achieved lower levels of education, were less likely to be employed full time, were less likely to get married and had lower social economic potential, according to the study’s findings.
“This study found that chronic marijuana use in adolescence was negatively associated with achieving important developmental milestones in young adulthood,” said study author and psychiatry resident Dr. Elizabeth Harari. “Awareness of marijuana’s potentially deleterious effects will be important moving forward, given the current move in the U.S. toward marijuana legalization for medicinal and possibly recreational use.”
The researchers also found that dependence may have a more severe effect on young men. Dependent young men achieved less across all four measures, while dependent women were less likely to obtain a college degree and had lower social economic potential, but were equally likely to get married or obtain full time employment.
Previous research had shown that heavy use of alcohol or marijuana in adolescence affects people developmentally. This study followed up on that, to look at what happens after age 18. The life outcomes seem to show the differences are meaningful into adulthood, the researchers noted.
The study is ongoing.
“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.
Chan, Harari, and UConn Health Alcohol Research Center Director Dr. Victor Hesselbrock are looking at whether there are different outcomes between young people dependent on alcohol versus marijuana, as well as why there were marked differences in outcomes between the sexes.
Source: University of Connecticut