Study Says Teen Pot Use May Cause Disabilities Later in Life

teen potReuters Health recently published an online article citing heavy pot use in a person’s teen years as a way to potentially predict disability in later life.  Based on the results of a long-term study, the results are sobering, and act as a warning to those currently advocating the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.

Swedish Study

The article cited the results of a long-term study of Swedish men, finding that those who began smoking pot (marijuana) at 18 years of age, especially heaviest marijuana users, were more likely to end-up on the country’s disability rolls by the time they reached age 59.

The study researchers noted that it was unclear as to whether or not the use of pot during adolescence was an early sign of social or psychiatric factors which may have contributed to the person’s later disability; or may have led to the person engaging in more severe substance abuse.

Leader of the Swedish study, Anna-Karin Danielsson, states there was reason to believe that associations found in the study “develop over a long period of time”, being intertwined with other problems with the individual, problems in the social security system, and problems in the labor market.

Some Pot Facts

Pot (marijuana) has the dubious distinction of being one of the most commonly-used illicit drugs worldwide.  A recent study showed-up that 77 million Europeans reported have tried it.

Marijuana use in the United States has been rising since 2007, likely due at least in part to a growing perception of diminishing risks, highly touted by its proponents and those pushing for legalization, and exacerbated by the states of Washington and Colorado becoming the first states in 2012 to legalize the possession of and use of recreational marijuana by those 21 years of age and up.

Despite the push for legalization and the campaigns to minimize the risks and liabilities of marijuana—whether medical or recreational—Danielsson notes that studies continue to link the drug with a variety of health and mental problems, and adverse consequences to society.

Furthermore, Danielsson noted that the study group coupled with a follow-up time of 39 years in length provided the researchers with an opportunity to expand on already existing knowledge.

More on the Study

Along with her colleagues, Danielsson analyzed data garnered from a study which included nearly 50,000 men born between the years of 1949 and 1951, and who were conscripted (drafted) into compulsory service in the military in 1969 and 1970.

When entering the military, the men were asked about the alcohol, tobacco and drug use in addition to questions about their social backgrounds, family backgrounds, behavior, their school performance, their general health, and psychological issues.

The team of researchers were specifically interested in the men’s frequency of marijuana use when aged 18, at the time of conscription to the military.  They were grouped based on how frequently they had used pot up to that time in their life, with groupings of “1-10 times”, “11-50 times” or “more than 50 times.”

The study team then obtained data from the national social insurance agency in Sweden, along with data from the education registry and labor market data to determine how many of the men were granted disability pensions through the year 2008.

At the time they entered the military, 9 percent of the teenagers reported having used pot, with 1.5 percent reporting having used it more than 50 times.

Research data showed-up that those men who had used pot more than 50 times prior to age 18 were “30 percent more likely” to get onto disability at some point in time between the ages of 40 and 59 years.

Similarly, a pattern showed-up for those young men who used marijuana less frequently, showing-up their likelihood of being on disability during middle age rising in correlation with increasing marijuana use at age 18.

When other factors such as socio-economic background, other health problems, other substance use by age of 18 years, and psychiatric diagnoses were taken into account by the study team, the line to marijuana use and later disability remained statistically significant—ruling out the results being due only to chance—for those identified as the heaviest users (smoked pot more than 50 times when young men).

Study Conclusions

Based on the study results, Danielsson noted that smoking pot at a young age potentially increases the risk of negative consequences later in a person’s life; and prior studies have shown frequent pot use does increase the risk of a person using other illicit drugs.

Danielsson also expressed that “adolescent cannabis use may lead to a series of negative life events”, citing such things as “illness and associated disability pensions” and “subsequent illicit drug use.”

The study authors concluded, as well, that their study findings serve to highlight the need for further studies on the consequences of marijuana and other illicit drug use.