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A new study conducted in Australia found that young people who use cannabis and amphetamines but quit before adulthood are – on average – not harming their future life chances, according to the research which tracked thousands of people over a 16-year period.
The results, based on data from more than 2,350 adolescents whose information was collected starting when they were 14, provide evidence that people who end their consumption practices before age 30 do not have lower economic and relationship success and life quality. Onset use among study participants ranged from 15 to 19 years.
Why the study matters
The study demonstrated the importance of stopping consumption in early adulthood so that adult health and wellbeing are not compromised. Cannabis and amphetamine use was self-reported at specific age points (21 and 30).
“Adolescent behavior problems predict drug use at 21 years, and drug use and life success at 30 years,” said professor Jake Najman from the University of Queensland, Australia.
“But teenage drug use or disorders don’t appear to predict life success in adulthood among those who’ve ceased taking drugs before the age of 30.
“What seems to best predict low life success outcomes is the persistence (over a longer course of time) of cannabis and amphetamine use.”
As a result, the authors are now calling on policymakers to address teen behavior issues such as school exclusion – which, the study shows, are linked with worse achievement later on in life than cannabis consumption.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Addiction Research & Theory and posted on EurekAlert.
Life success was measured at age 30 and defined according to three categories: socioeconomic, quality of life and quality of intimate relationships.
The results show that more than one in five (22%) had ever had a cannabis use disorder and 4% problematic amphetamines use. Age of onset ranged from 15 to 19 and the participants reported high levels of drug use.
The proportion at age 21 who reported problematic drug usage was 19% for cannabis, a very small proportion (0.7%) for amphetamines, and 3% for those using both substances. Of these, the issues persisted at age 30 for more than a third (36%) taking cannabis and 60% of those on cannabis and amphetamines.
A large majority of those who had ever met the criteria for problematic drug use were no longer using at clinically significant levels by age 21, according to the findings
However, the use of cannabis at age 30 was related to achievement. This was also dose-related with high use in adulthood associated with the highest rates of poor life success.