No Link Between Early Marijuana Use And Health Problems Later In Life

With the recent legalization of marijuana by many states in the United States, the drug has become more widely available. Because of this, concerns over long-term health effects have also become more common. However, a new study has found that frequent marijuana usage in teenage males does not run the risk of creating mental or physical health issues later on.

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behavior, analyzed 408 males and their marijuana usage over two decades, from adolescence to their mid-30s. Subjects were classified into four groups: those with little to no use of marijuana, early chronic users, those users that only smoked marijuana in their teens, and those who started using the drug later on in life and continued use.

The teens were first interviewed about their marijuana usage every 6 months. After the first three sessions, interviews were conducted every year until the teens turned 26. Between 2009-2010, the subjects were again interviewed when they reached 36-years-old.

Lead researcher Jordan Bechtold, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, had originally expected to discover a link between adolescent marijuana use and an assortment of other symptoms. The results not only surprised even Bechtold, but contradicted every similar study on marijuana that had preceded it.

“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.”

Neither physical illness (such as cancer, asthma, and other respiratory issues) or mental illnesses (such as depression and anxiety) were increased in the marijuana groups. In fact, they were equally as likely to occur in any of the groups, even those who had better or never tried marijuana.

The study was also designed to see if ethnicity may be a factor in developing the marijuana-related ailments later in life. The subjects were 54 percent black, 42 percent white, and 4 percent other races or ethnicities. Results showed that no race or ethnicity had a higher risk of developing physical or mental illnesses later on in life from frequent marijuana use.

The study concluded that more research will need to be conducted in the future in order to further validate these findings.

“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.”

According to a national survey conducted by the NIH, 7.5 percent of teens ages 12 and older have used marijuana in the past month. 12.6 percent have used marijuana in the past year, and over 43.7 percent of teens will use marijuana at least once in their lifetime.

[Image via David McNew / Getty Images]