REGULAR cannabis use by teenagers can lead to an increased risk of suicide, greater use of illicit drugs and poor educational achievement a Christchurch study has revealed.
The study, published in medical journal The Lancet, showed daily cannabis users under the age of 17 were 60 per cent less likely to complete high school or attend university and were nearly seven times more likely to attempt suicide.
Daily users were 18 times more likely to become addicted to cannabis and eight times more likely to use other illicit drugs.
Researchers from three large, long-running studies in Christchurch and Melbourne, combined data to investigate the link between cannabis use in adolescence and outcomes later in life.
Professor David Fergusson, leader of the University of Otago’s Christchurch Health and Development Study, said the research was the largest single consistent study done on adolescent use of cannabis.
[The study, done by researchers in Australia and New Zealand, is a meta-analysis of three previous long-running studies that included nearly 4,000 participants.].
New Zealand Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said New Zealand was known as one of the highest users of cannabis in the world.
[The Foundation is a registered charity, registered on 30/06/08].
Despite this and the new evidence on the potential harm of cannabis, he believed the issue had been put on the backburner by politicians.
“We’ve known this, yet we’ve maintained a status quo approach that has not changed for 40 years.”
Bell said the Internet-Mana Party was the only political party to address the issue and even the Green Party which had previously campaigned on the issue, had sidelined the debate.
Internet Party leader Laila Harre said the study supported the argument for decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis.
“It’s because of research like this which is consistent with a lot of studies that we are of the view that cannabis needs to be regulated by government rather than regulated by the blackmarket,” she said.
Green MP Keven Hague said while the party supported decriminalisation, it had not made the topic a priority in the election campaign.
Bell said whether cannabis was legalised or not, the government needed to fund better drug education programmes.
Odyssey House youth services team leader Jim Marsters said children as young as 6 were being introduced to cannabis, mainly by family members.
“For some young people, the family view is: I’d rather you smoke with me, than down the road with whoever.”
He said 98 per cent of young people came to the service seeking treatment for cannabis addiction.
Young people at Odyssey House had all the negative outcomes found in the study, Marsters said.
A recent and worrying trend of self-harm among girls was also associated with regular cannabis youth.
While decriminalisation would remove the “middle man” and the burden of conviction for the young, Marsters was worried about the increased availability of cannabis if it was legalised.
A 19-year-old factory worker said that he started using cannabis when he was 13 but decided to give it up after he lost his job.
“I found it hard to get up in the morning and I lacked motivation.”
He realised it was having a negative effect on him and witnessed his girlfriend in the grip of cannabis addiction.
“She had it from the moment she woke up to last thing at night and when she didn’t have it, she got really upset.”
Cannabis use was rife when he was at school, with many friends leaving during the day to smoke marijuana.
Source: Fairfax NZ
Teens using cannabis at higher suicide risk
Story by Cate Broughton
Published. The Dominion Post, September 11, 2014. A3.