Parents all across the United States have been flipping out over the past few weeks after a recent study concluded that their children, their precious babies, are more likely to enter the drug scene through the use marijuana rather than alcohol and tobacco. You could almost hear moms and dads nationwide practicing their “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” speech, perhaps even paging through old news clippings from the 1980s in hopes of summoning some inspiration to get little Jimmy to Just Say No. Because back in their time, marijuana was considered the root of all evil. Sure, most parents expect their kids to try booze and cigarettes, but to touch weed, even once, is as good as them signing their life away with the heroin-stained tail of the Devil himself.
While it is true that more kids today seem to be gravitating toward the use of marijuana as their introduction into adult substances, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania finds that these kids are not necessarily destined to become hoodlums and common street tuffs.
In the latest journal Addiction, researchers say they found no evidence that youth marijuana consumption progresses to harder drugs – further discounting the gateway theory – nor could they see any reason to believe that a teen’s interest in marijuana automatically puts them on a path to bad behavior.
“Concerns about marijuana leading to all kinds of other behavioral problems don’t seem to be supported,” co-author Dan Romer told WHYY. “We found no relationship between using marijuana and seeking out peers who use marijuana, and no relationship with conduct problems.”
The study consisted of several hundred children between the ages of 10 and 12 that were regularly interviewed for five years. Drug screens were also implemented to confirm their reported drug use.
Researchers said they wanted to get a feel for the types of drugs the subjects were experimenting with and measure the impact from both a cognitive and social standpoint.
But more importantly, they hoped to determine whether the kids were developing any “conduct problems” as a result of their drug use.
“Things like stealing, lying, using drugs without permission by parents, setting fires, skipping school,” Romer explained. “Antisocial behavior that can, if it goes unabated, lead eventually to more serious problems as adolescents mature into adulthood.”
Although studies published decades ago suggest there is a correlation between teen marijuana use and conduct problems, researchers say they found “the exact reverse.” The study finds that so-called “bad kids” had behavioral issues long before their first toke. Romer said these kids might have started using pot because they are attracted to “rebellious behavior.” They may also be self-medicating their way out of troubled family situations.
But the main takeaway is that marijuana use in teens does not appear to turn them into loathsome individuals. Researchers were quick to point out, however, that this does not mean that marijuana is harmless. Only that it is not going to make young people behave worse than they would under sober circumstances.
The results of this study are not likely to put most parents at ease, but perhaps it will prevent them from losing too much sleep when it comes to their kids using marijuana. Some studies show that teens are simply experimenting with pot first because they have come to understand just how dangerous alcohol and tobacco can be. This means they’re thinking, which is always a good sign.
Just raise good kids, and they will almost certainly go on to become good people – with or without marijuana.