A new study has found no link between frequent cannabis use in teen males and future mental and/or physical health issues.
Researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Pittsburgh conducted the study, which the American Psychological Association published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors journal. The results contradict past data regarding cannabis use and even startled lead researcher Jordan Bechtold from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Bechtold reported,
“What we found was a little surprising. There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence.”
Under Bechtold’s leadership, the team of researchers reviewed the health records of 408 boys from the time they were in seventh grade until they reached 36 years of age. The participants were separated into four groups: minimal to non-users, early chronic users, individuals who smoked cannabis only in their adolescence, and those who started in their late teens and continued using in adulthood. Of the young men who participated in the study, 54 percent fell into the latter three categories.
At their peak, some chronic users were reported to have smoked more than 200 days a year on average. After the age of around 22, the level of use tended to decline. Regardless of use, when it comes to ailments such as asthma, cancer, anxiety and depression, smokers and non-smokers were equally likely to encounter various illnesses. The study controlled for several factors that are commonly linked to health problems, including tobacco usage, hard drug consumption, socioeconomic status and the absence of health insurance.
However, it does not account for those who may have avoided cannabis altogether due to existing health concerns or risk factors. For instance, those with asthma may have chosen to abstain from smoking so as to avoid inciting an asthma attack. Additionally, the study’s conclusion states the data was self-reported, which may have some effect on accuracy. Furthermore, men who did not frequent doctor’s offices may not have identified condition symptoms.
The study states,
“The health outcomes associated with marijuana use are just one piece of the legalization puzzle.”
It does go on to suggest a course for future research with emphasis on examining the effects of various potencies and amounts of cannabis. The study also noted the average THC level of government-confiscated cannabis increased since the 1990s and early 2000s, which is when the data was gathered.
The lead researcher is hesitant to make a blanket statement concerning the positive or negative effects of cannabis due to the conclusions of past studies. Nonetheless, Bechtold stated,
“We wanted to help inform the debate about legalization of marijuana, but it’s a very complicated issue and one study should not be taken in isolation.”