The stigma against cannabis use in Mzansi may have declined over the years but parents continue to warn their teens against the dangers of smoking marijuana. And it turns out, that they have a right to be concerned.
Well, at least according to a study conducted by British researchers, who advise teenagers to stay clear of the green herb. The new study conducted by King’s College London and UCL suggests that Gen Z teens were three times more likely to develop an addiction to cannabis than adults.
According to research lead, Dr Will Lawn, adolescents who used cannabis were no more likely to have higher levels of *subclinical depression or anxiety than adults who use cannabis, and were even more vulnerable than adult users to the associations with psychotic-like symptoms explains.
Lawn is a lecturer at the UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit and Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. “Adolescents are also at a greater risk of experiencing difficulties with mental health than adults, they should be proactively discouraged from regular cannabis use,” he says.
“Cannabis addiction is a real issue that teenagers should be aware of, as they appear to be much more vulnerable to it than adults.”
Why it is a danger to teen health
Among people of any age, previous studies have found that roughly nine to 22% of people who try the cannabis, develop cannabis use disorder, and that risk is higher for people who tried it at a younger age, says Lawn.
The results aligns with prior evidence that cannabis use may increase the likelihood of developing a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, but they warn their study did not investigate the risk of clinical psychosis or schizophrenia, Lawn explains.
“Adolescent users were also more likely than adult users to develop psychotic-like symptoms, but the analysis revealed that this is because all adolescents, and all cannabis users, are more likely to newly develop psychotic-like symptoms, rather than cannabis affecting the teenagers differently to adults.”
Is marijuana a gateway drug?
The researchers caution that cannabis use could impact school performance during a key developmental stage of life.
Senior author, Professor Val Curran, explains, “Our findings suggest that schools should be teaching pupils more about the risk of addiction to cannabis, which has been neglected in drugs education.”
Meanwhile, in the Western Cape, Dr Genevieve da Silva tells Health For Mzansi that the impact of drug use on a teenager can be significant.
“We see substance abuse influencing the youth and a lot of people come in with assaults and stab wounds with the history of abusing substances. We often treat young people who are highly intoxicated by unknown substances. I would advise all young people to stay away from drugs,” she says.
Da Silva is an emergency medical doctor at the Eerste River Hospital in Cape Town.
She highlights some of the common signs of substance abuse to look out for:
- Sudden disinterest in school, work, or social responsibilities.
- Deteriorating physical health, chronic tiredness, or staying up longer.
- Secretive behaviour and lying.
- Neglected appearance and/or hygiene.
- Sudden changes in social network.
- Recent financial issues or requests for money.
- Involvement in criminal activity.
- Always hungry.
Health For Mzansi: Word of the day
*Subclinical depression: According to ResearchGate, subclinical depression is a condition in which a person has depressive symptoms but does not meet the criteria for a depressive disorder.