Abusing pot, booze lowers teens' chances for success in life

November 7, 2017 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—The American dream of success is a lot harder to attain for teenagers who use pot and alcohol, especially if they become substance abusers, a new study reports.

Teen pot smokers and drinkers struggle to achieve some of the hallmarks of adult success, including obtaining a college degree, getting married, holding down a full-time job and earning a good living, the researchers found.

"Parents should try to delay their children's onset of use as much as possible," said research supervisor Victor Hesselbrock, chairman of addiction studies at the University of Connecticut. "If you can push regular use back well into adolescence, the kids do a lot better."

The researchers have been tracking the life course of 1,165 young adults from across the United States, most of whom come from a family with a history of alcoholism, Hesselbrock said.

Participants' habits were first assessed at age 12. After that, the researchers checked in on them at two-year intervals, up through age 25 to 34 for many of the subjects.

Kids from families with alcohol abuse followed patterns of first substance use and frequency of use that are typical of U.S. high school kids, Hesselbrock said.

But as they got older, the paths of those who used or became dependent on alcohol or pot as teens deviated from those of kids who stayed clean for the most part, according to lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Harari, who did the analysis as part of her residency training at the University of Connecticut.

Teens addicted to any substance were less likely to achieve any of the life goals she assessed. Fewer got married, went on to get a college degree, found a full-time job or earned a good salary.

Even those teens who only used pot and alcohol without forming a habit wound up achieving less in their lives.

Male users had a harder time finding a full-time job and earning good pay, while female users were less likely to get a .

Harari presented the findings Sunday at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting, in Atlanta.

"As America continues this momentum towards legalization of cannabis, results like these should serve as important speed bumps to remind us cannabis is not a harmless product," said Dr. Timothy Brennan, an attending physician with The Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. "When combined with alcohol, it can be quite problematic for people's lives."

Because the study tracked kids over time, it provides solid evidence that substance use predates problems in achieving success later in life, Hesselbrock said.

"I really think it is the substance use that is causing them the difficulty," he said, although the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Dr. Michael Ketteringham, medical director of integrated medicine and psychiatry with Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, said this sort of study probably won't stem the tide of marijuana legalization in America.

"Such measures are supported by the majority of Americans, and the imprisonment of people caught in possession of cannabis can be considered to be at crisis levels in the United States, resulting in the disruption of families and other outcomes that are associated with having a criminal history," Ketteringham said.

He added, however, that the easing of criminal penalties should not be considered evidence that adolescent cannabis use doesn't do harm.

"The association of cannabis use with multiple deleterious outcomes as an adolescent reaches adulthood suggests that as the drug becomes less criminalized, other measures must focus on limiting the use of cannabis by the most vulnerable, adolescents," Ketteringham said.

Hesselbrock recommends that parents start talking about substance use with their kids at an early age.

"You don't start talking to your kids about alcohol and drugs when they're 13, 14, 15 and probably have already initiated that and other types of high-risk behaviors," he said. "I would say start taking with your kids even beginning at age 6 or 7, then as they approach those danger years of 11 and 12 for girls, probably 12 to 14 for boys, sit down and have the talk. You can't have an in-depth conversation because they don't have that experience, but it should be a recurring theme and seizing of opportunities when it seems appropriate."

Parents can use recent events as life lessons for kids—for example, pointing out when alcohol or drugs has caused a car wreck, a fight, a lost job or problems at school for family, friends and acquaintances, Hesselbrock said.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary, because it has not been subjected to peer review.

Explore further: Booze and pot use in teens lessens life success

More information: Victor Hesselbrock, Ph.D., professor and vice chair, psychiatry, and chair, addiction studies, University of Connecticut; Timothy Brennan, M.D., attending physician, The Addiction Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City; Michael Ketteringham, M.D., MPH, medical director, integrated medicine and psychiatry, Staten Island University Hospital; Nov. 5, 2017, presentation, American Public Health Association annual meeting, Atlanta

For about teen substance use, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Related Stories

Booze and pot use in teens lessens life success

November 5, 2017
Young adults dependent on marijuana and alcohol are less likely to achieve adult life goals, according to new research by UConn Health scientists presented November 5 at the American Public Health Association 2017 Annual ...

Legal weed—what your kids really need to know

September 14, 2017
Weed, pot, grass, marijuana—or cannabis to use the proper terminology—will be legal in Canada from July 1, 2018. Anyone over the age of 18 will be able to walk into a store and buy up to 30 grams of regulated product. ...

With cigarettes out of favor, many U.S. teens also shun pot

November 6, 2017
(HealthDay)—Today's American teens are smoking less than ever, and the trend may be keeping many from smoking pot, too.

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

July 17, 2017
A study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth, found that young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence.

Study finds link between teen cannabis use and illicit drug use in early adulthood

June 7, 2017
One in five adolescents at risk of tobacco dependency, harmful alcohol consumption and illicit drug use:

A quarter of problematic pot users have anxiety disorders, many since childhood

October 24, 2017
About a quarter of adults whose marijuana use is problematic in early adulthood have anxiety disorders in childhood and late adolescence, according to new data from Duke Health researchers.

Recommended for you

Cannabis—it matters how young you start

May 18, 2018
Canadian researchers find that boys who start smoking pot before 15 are much more likely to have a drug problem at 28 than those who start at 15 or after.

Long legs turn women's heads, arm length immaterial: study

May 16, 2018
Labouring over the age-old question "What do women look for in men?", scientists added an item to the list Wednesday: legs slightly longer than average, with a good shin-to-thigh ratio.

Elevated homocysteine identified as metabolic risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases

May 16, 2018
The amino acid homocysteine occurs naturally in the human body, generated as a byproduct of methionine metabolism. Genetic diseases or an imbalanced diet, with too much red meat or deficiencies in B vitamins and folic acid, ...

Researchers find clues to treating psychoses in mental health patients

May 16, 2018
Psychotic disorders often are severe and involve extreme symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations in which people lose their sense of reality. Researchers at the University of Missouri recently found evidence that boosting ...

Most deprived are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia

May 16, 2018
Older adults in England with fewer financial resources are more likely to develop dementia, according to new UCL research.

People make different moral choices in imagined versus real-life situations

May 16, 2018
Researchers often use hypothetical scenarios to understand how people grapple with moral quandaries, but experimental results suggest that these scenarios may not always reflect real-life behavior. The findings, published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.