Study Says Teen Cannabis Consumption Does Not Lead to Youth Behavioral Problems

Teenage cannabis consumption does not lead to behavioral problems, researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center found.

According to new research published on Nov. 20 in the journal Addiction, cannabis consumption doesn’t cause behavioral problems in adolescents. The study’s notes concluded that adolescent cannabis consumption doesn’t lead to “greater conduct problems or association with cannabis-using peers apart from pre-existing conduct problems.”

“The present findings showed that conduct problems predicted cannabis use but not vice versa, particularly during mid–late adolescence,” the researchers wrote. “Thus we were able to demonstrate for the first time that increases in conduct problems precede increases in cannabis use within individuals.”

To conduct the study, researchers followed approximately 400 teenagers from 2004 to 2012. They interviewed and tested the teenagers for cannabis consumption once a year and analyzed how the results compared with the teenagers’ behavior.

The research team also wanted to learn about cannabis use disorders (CUD) and how they emerged in youth. The team looked at the criterion for CUD as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and compared them to the participants’ responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The study revealed that increases in conduct problems in later adolescence were associated with higher rates of CUD. Associating with peers who consume cannabis also led to increased cannabis use, which subsequently seems to lead to more cases of CUD. But the researchers stressed that the youth with increasing conduct problems “are susceptible to more cannabis use and CUD regardless of whether or not their friends are increasingly using it.”

Teen cannabis use has long been a concern for states that have legalized or are looking to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The study shows that cannabis use among teens, while still dangerous in some aspects, doesn’t have as big of an effect on their behavior. Another recent study found that cannabis use has less effect on youth cognitive function than previously believed. And the good news is that the states with legal recreational cannabis have seen teen use of cannabis drop drastically lately.

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