Teenagers who abuse alcohol and marijuana are probably not going to do much with their lives, according to new research.
Scientists were investigating the link between dependency on those two drugs and life achievements when they found that the young adults they were studying, who had problems with alcohol and pot, were less likely to move beyond a low education level, get married or find full-time employment. That research, which is still preliminary, was presented this week at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, according to the University of Connecticut, and could shed more light on the effect of teenage substance abuse later in life.
The researchers analyzed data on almost 1,200 people from around the U.S. taken between the age of 12 and their early to late adulthood, some as late as 34 years old. The majority of those kids, whose information was part of a database dedicated to information on the genetics of alcoholism with the National Institutes of Health, had a close relative who was an alcoholic, such as a parent or grandparent. A number of the subjects were dependent on alcohol or marijuana while they were teenagers, and the data revealed those drug abusers did not go as far in their education, had less socioeconomic potential and did not as often get married as teens without those dependencies or addictions.
Results also suggested that young men in these categories were worse off than their female counterparts: The young women who had drug dependency issues as teens were not less likely to get married or have full-time employment than young women who stayed clean.
“This study found that chronic marijuana use in adolescence was negatively associated with achieving important developmental milestones in young adulthood,” researcher Elizabeth Harari said in the university statement. “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.”
It was unclear, however, what other factors beyond just drug abuse may have played a role in the young adults’ achievement levels, and how the researchers measured those other factors. The study is still ongoing, and the scientists are currently investigating whether outcomes differ based upon the type of drug involved — alcohol or marijuana.
The study results could be connected to previous research that has shown alcohol and other drugs can have a negative effect on a young person’s development.
“Parents should try to delay their children’s onset of use as much as possible,” research supervisor Victor Hesselbrock said, according to a HealthDay report on the research. “If you can push regular use back well into adolescence, the kids do a lot better.”