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New study finds weed and alcohol reduce teens’ mental faculties

Although it is common knowledge that alcohol and weed abuse is not good for anyone’s health, this new study published in the journal Addiction adds further context to this simple claim. The team of researchers team from the nonprofit organization RAND Corporation was led by the behavioral expert Dr. Elizabeth D’Amico. Scientists analyzed data from students aged 11 – 17 years, coming from 16 schools across the state who participated in a drug and alcohol use prevention program called CHOICE. All the boys and girls had to complete seven different surveys, with questions ranging from social functioning, physical and mental health, criminal behaviors and academic performance as well.

All the students who avoided using marijuana or alcohol performed better in middle and high school and had a significantly lesser chance of showing delinquent behaviors. Evidence showing poorer mental health and brain development was found in those subject who abused either one of these substances. Although white teenagers were more likely to use any one of these two substances, youths of Hispanic and Black ethnicity showed poorer academic results. Multi-ethnic and Asian kids, instead, suffered from poorer physical health overall.

A previous study published last year showed that marijuana is 114 times less dangerous than alcohol, yet using either one of these substances still seems to be perceived as “cool” in teen culture. Dr. D’Amico explained that many youths see marijuana as safer than drinking, although the potential effects on brain development are still poorly understood and can affect performance even in adulthood. Alcohol addiction can also lead to long-term brain damage as well as serious behavioral changes that often negatively affect the entire family of the alcoholic.

More and more youths start drinking during early adolescence. According to statistics, in 2003 the average age of first alcohol use dropped to 14 years old, from the 17 years old of 1965. Underage drinking is a serious issue that may contribute to several consequences including sexual assaults, car crashes, injuries and even death. People who engage in drinking before the age of 15 also have a higher risk of becoming alcoholics later in their lives.

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