Click here to return to the Medical News Today home page. Today, in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the possession and sale of cannabis for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes is legal. As the law steadily softens across the country, research into the long-term effects of cannabis is more important than ever. There are few areas of medical investigation as controversial as cannabis research, but previous studies into the social impact of cannabis have yielded contradictory or unclear findings.
Alcohol abuse is more likely than cannabis to play a role in events such as traffic accidents and violence. However, when cannabis and alcohol's effects on relationships, delinquency and education are measured, results are less conclusive. The number of potential factors to consider are vast, making results difficult to analyze and interpret. These factors include the likelihood of cannabis and alcohol users to abuse other drugs; also, the illegal status of cannabis means that users might be tied to other illegal activities, or incarcerated, both of which have negative consequences unrelated to cannabis itself.
Additionally, heavy cannabis use from an early age might have its roots in underlying psychopathology or preexisting social or economic problems at home. The study, published in Clinical Psychological Science , uses data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study that followed 1, New Zealand children from birth until the age of The group represented a cross-section of the population and received a maximum of 11 follow-up assessments over the years. These findings remained constant even after controlling for factors such as childhood socioeconomic problems, lower IQ scores, depression and antisocial behavior in adolescence, lower motivation to achieve, higher levels of impulsivity, criminal convictions and the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
The results showed that both alcohol and cannabis abusers experienced similar declines in social class; they were both more likely to carry out antisocial behaviors in the workplace and to have relationship problems. However, the heavy cannabis users were more likely than the alcohol abusers to have severe financial difficulties; for instance, they more regularly reported difficulty finding enough money to enable them to eat. Moffitt, a psychologist at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, UK, sums up the findings: "Cannabis may be safer than alcohol for your health, but not for your finances.
These results and others like them are increasingly important as the legal status of cannabis shifts. But, as the legalization of cannabis increases around the world, the economic and social burden posed by regular cannabis use could increase as well. The researchers are quick to remind readers that their research "does not support arguments for or against cannabis legalization," their results simply show that "cannabis was not safe for the long-term users tracked" in their study.
Although results from previous investigations have been contradictory, this study has paid particular attention to the detail and offers a deeper insight into the long-term social and financial implications of cannabis abuse. Further research is sure to follow, and the picture will grow clearer with time.
Comparing Alcohol and Marijuana: Seriously - by David W. Murray
Medical News Today recently covered research investigating cannabis' effect on the processing of emotions. Pew Research Center, Majority now supports legalizing marijuana , accessed 23 March Ranking the harm of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs for the individual and the population, van Amsterdam J et al.
Socioeconomic status and substance use among young adults: a comparison across constructs and drugs , Megan E. Patrick et al. New York Times , If marijuana is legal, will addiction rise? MLA Newman, Tim. MediLexicon, Intl. APA Newman, T. MNT is the registered trade mark of Healthline Media. Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
Get the MNT newsletter. Enter your email address to subscribe to our most top categories Your privacy is important to us. Email an article. You have chosen to share the following article: How elderberries can help you fight the flu To proceed, simply complete the form below, and a link to the article will be sent by email on your behalf. This study has several limitations. First, it should be noted that we relied on self-reported measures for substance use and other factors.
Notably, participants were asked to report whether or not they had family members or friends with alcohol and or drug problems, and the psychometric properties of these questions were not tested. Second, we assessed only descriptive norms, and interpersonal perception was limited to those of the same age and sex as the participant. Perception of the amount of alcohol used by others in more proximal groups such as close friends was not evaluated. The large number of participants in the study and the logistics of the screening survey preclude gathering detailed data that could be obtained during face-to-face structured interviews.
We did not observe major differences in the associations reported herein. Third, because it is a cross-sectional design, we were not able to investigate possible causal pathways or assess the influence of changes in perception on substance use. In addition, only year-old men were included, and our results cannot be generalized beyond this population subset. Evidence suggests that the magnitude of norm misperception is influenced by gender. Even though misperceptions have been observed across gender, their magnitude is likely to differ.
Therefore, our results should not be extrapolated to women. Cohort participation and response to cohort questionnaires may be subject to self-selection bias. Although minimally, participants who did complete the cohort questionnaire differed from the source population. Substance use was lower among those who completed the cohort questionnaire compared with census data. Detailed analyses are presented elsewhere [ 34 , 35 ]. In , Hilde Pape pointed out methodological limitations in studies focusing on estimations of peer substance use and argued that these restrictions may lead to exaggerated results [ 27 ].
She reported that the representativeness of studies in the field is problematic because of convenience samples and low response rates. In this regard, our study has the advantage of using a large sample with perception items imbedded within a larger cohort questionnaire. Even if differences existed between cohort participants and the source population, these differences were limited [ 34 ].
Other methodological concerns reported by Pape include the complexity of questions used to assess perceptions. Particularly for the item on alcohol use perception, this limitation exists in the present study. Asking participants to compare their alcohol use to alcohol use by others by having them determine the proportion of individuals their age and sex who drink more alcohol than they do can be challenging, and assumes pre-existing beliefs about the use of others.
There is no way to determine the level or strength of pre-existing beliefs in an individual. Therefore, the present study is also limited by the complexity of the questions used to assess perceptions. Nevertheless, we believe our study has some notable strengths. Also, we used norms that are usually used in available normative feedback interventions i. Our results confirm among young men in the general population what has already been seen in selected student populations; i. Although we cannot make a causal interpretation because of our study design, our results suggest that perceptions themselves may influence current behavior, and that those who overestimate substance use by others are indeed likely to use more themselves.
We believe our study adds information on the prevalence of misperceptions for substances other than alcohol. To be successful, such interventions should take into account differential strengths of association across substances, especially if large-scale efforts to implement interventions based primarily on this theoretical rationale are attempted. NB designed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the initial draft and final version of the article. JS participated in planning and data analyses, discussed earlier versions, and reviewed the final version of the article. MF participated in planning and data analyses, reviewed the analyses, discussed earlier versions, and reviewed the final version of the article.
J-BD designed the study discussed earlier versions and reviewed the final version of the article. GG designed the study, discussed analyses, discussed earlier versions and reviewed the final version of the article. All authors contributed to and approved the final manuscript. We are grateful to Charlotte Eidenbenz for her extensive efforts to coordinate the study.
We thank George Danko for the careful editing of the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Addict Sci Clin Pract. Published online Oct Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Nicolas Bertholet: hc. Received May 17; Accepted Oct This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background Interventions have been developed to reduce overestimations of substance use among others, especially for alcohol and among students. Results Tobacco use by others was overestimated by Cohort study assessment Substance use The study questionnaire contained questions on drinking frequency How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
Perceptions Perceptions of smoking, cannabis, and alcohol use by others were assessed with the following items: What is the percentage of men your age that are smoking cigarettes? Additional variables Participants were asked whether or not they have family members parents or siblings with alcohol or drug problems. Alcohol consumption Census norms were computed with the alcohol consumption data from the 11, individuals. Overestimation, underestimation and accurate estimation of substance use by others Tobacco and cannabis use Overestimation, underestimation, and accurate estimation of the use of substances by others was determined by assessing how participants rated the prevalence of tobacco and cannabis use among peers of the same age and sex compared with the prevalence established in the census.
Alcohol use Perceived prevalence of alcohol use was not deemed relevant, given the actual high prevalence of alcohol use in the study population [ 24 ]. Association between perception of use by others and substance use In a first step, separate over-dispersed Poisson regression models for tobacco, cannabis, and alcohol use were created to compare the substance use of those who overestimated, underestimated, and accurately estimated substance use by others. Table 1 Participant characteristics.
Open in a separate window. Perception of substance use by others The prevalence of tobacco use was overestimated by Table 2 Overestimation, accurate estimation, and underestimation of others substance use. Associations between perception of use by others and substance use Separate over-dispersed Poisson regression models for tobacco, cannabis, and alcohol use were used to assess the associations between perception of use by others and substance use.
Table 3 Multivariable models examining the association of substance use perception, presence of close friends with alcohol or drug problems, and family history of alcohol or drug problems with substance use.
Marijuana May be Less Harmful Than Alcohol, Tobacco
Conclusion Our results confirm among young men in the general population what has already been seen in selected student populations; i. Competing interests The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Acknowledgments We are grateful to Charlotte Eidenbenz for her extensive efforts to coordinate the study.
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