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Teens in Legal Cannabis States are Waiting to Experiment with Drugs

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A study by Washington State University has revealed that in states with legal cannabis, adolescents are experimenting with drugs less than in states where it is currently illegal.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the study also shows that teens are using illegal drugs less in states where cannabis is legal as well. The study was originally published in JAMA Pediatrics. According to the results, teenagers used to begin experimenting with drugs around the age of 15, but this has now increased to ages 17 through 19. 

“This is great news, because delaying drug use prevents early exposure, which is associated with a variety of negative health consequences, including increased risk of drug use disorder and long-term impairments such as depression, neurocognitive deficits, involvement in risky behaviors, and sexually transmitted diseases,” said the study’s lead author, Karl Alcover.

Researchers used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which annually evaluates U.S. citizens who are older than 12 years old. According to this, “teens trying alcohol or tobacco rose from 16 to 17-years-old in 2017. Meanwhile, adolescents tried heroin or cocaine at an average age of just over 17 in 2004.”

“Our study shows that since 2004, fewer individuals started using drugs at age 15 and younger, which is what we would typically consider as early-onset drug use,” Alcover said. “These promising trends may serve as early evidence that prevention strategies—especially those focused on teens and young adults—are working.”

This isn’t the first study on teen drug use since cannabis legalization became more common. Most teens in Denver, Colorado say that they don’t consume cannabis and the same JAMA data already revealed that teen cannabis consumption has decreased in legal states. Now, it’s clear that consumption of all substances decreases when cannabis is more accepted.