Marijuana, alcohol use may harm teens’ mental health and academic outcomes
Middle and high school students who use marijuana and consume alcohol are at greater risk for poorer mental health and academic outcomes, finds a new study, with non-white students faring worst.
The study, led by Elizabeth D’Amico, senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation – an American nonprofit research organization – was recently published in the journal Addiction.
Alcohol and marijuana use are common among adolescents in the United States.
- Approximately 8.7 million youths aged 12-20 report having consumed alcohol in the past month.
- 6.5 percent of 8th-grade students and 14.8 percent of 10th-graders in the U.S. currently use marijuana.
For their study, D’Amico and colleagues set out to investigate how alcohol consumption and marijuana use in middle and high school might influence academic outcomes.
The research involved 6,509 youths from 16 middle schools across Southern California – all of whom were part of an alcohol and drug use prevention program called CHOICE.
Between the ages of 11 ½ and 17 years – spanning from middle to high school – the students completed a total of seven surveys, in which they were asked about their use of alcohol and marijuana.
The final survey they completed also asked about their academic performance, as well as social functioning, delinquent behavior, and mental and physical health.
Compared with youths who engaged in lower or no alcohol and marijuana use during middle and high school, those with greater use were found to have poorer academic preparedness and were more likely to have delinquent behavior.
Furthermore, youths who engaged in greater marijuana use alone during middle and high school were found to have poorer academic performance and poorer mental health.
White youths were more likely to engage in alcohol and marijuana use than non-white youths, according to the team. However, the researchers found that Hispanic and multi-ethnic youths were at greater risk of poorer academic performance as a result of higher marijuana and alcohol use, compared with white youths.
Additionally, Asian, black, and Hispanic youths were found to be at greater risk of poorer academic preparedness than white youths, while Asian and multi-ethnic youths had poorer physical health.
These findings highlight the need to address alcohol and marijuana use early on, particularly for non-white adolescents.
The researchers note that there are some limitations to their study. For example, they did not account for racial discrimination, parental involvement, or neighborhood quality – factors that may have influenced alcohol and marijuana use or academic and mental functioning during the study period.