Different Drugs Have Different Consequences, Young Adults Say
According to a survey from New York University Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health, teenagers tend to report different sets of consequences for alcohol use and marijuana use.
Both marijuana and alcohol are illegal for teenagers and young adults under the age of 21. Recreational marijuana use is legal for adults 21 and older only in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.
Nevertheless, alcohol and marijuana are by far the most popular psychoactive drugs among teenagers. The survey of 7,437 high school students found that 97 percent of them reported having consumed alcohol at least once, while 60 percent reported at least one incident of marijuana use.
The NYU researchers also asked the high school respondents to report which negative psychosocial consequences they experienced due to using alcohol or using marijuana. The survey revealed that alcohol use and marijuana use tend to be associated with different sets of adverse psychosocial outcomes for teenagers.
Alcohol Linked to Unsafe Driving and Regret
The researchers found a very strong association between teenage drinking and unsafe driving. The teenagers in the study who reported frequent drinking were more than 13 times more likely to report unsafe driving than teenagers who reported no lifetime history of drinking. Frequent marijuana users were three times as likely to report unsafe driving than teenagers who did not use marijuana.
Compared to marijuana, alcohol was also more likely to lead to behavior that users later regretted, according to the teenagers who participated in the survey. Female drinkers were especially likely to say that alcohol use led to regrettable behavior, and to report muddled thinking and trouble controlling their emotions. There was a much stronger association overall between frequent alcohol use and regret than between frequent marijuana use and regret.
Different Relationships Affected by Drinking, Marijuana Use
The teenagers in the survey were also more likely to report that drinking alcohol led directly to difficulties in their relationships with their peers, including friends and significant others.
Marijuana use was less likely to harm teenagers’ relationships with their peers, but was more likely to cause difficulties in their relationships with teachers, supervisors or other adult authority figures.
Marijuana Use Associated With Struggles in School, Work
Compared to alcohol use, marijuana use was more likely to be associated with a loss of interest in school, work or extracurricular activities. Marijuana users were more likely to report having less energy and struggling to perform at school or at work.
There was also an association between marijuana use and trouble with law enforcement. Frequent marijuana users were 23 times more likely to report trouble with the police than alcohol users. For purposes of this study, a “frequent” user was defined as having used marijuana more than 40 times. Marijuana users were more likely to report facing social stigma than alcohol users, and to be seen as a bad influence or as someone involved with bad influences.
Women Report More Adverse Outcomes, Minorities Report Fewer
Overall, female students who engaged in either alcohol or marijuana use were more likely than male students to report some kind of adverse outcome. Students who belonged to a racial or ethnic minority population were less likely than other students to report negative consequences, particularly when it came to alcohol use.
The results of the survey were published in September 2014 in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
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