Frequent use of marijuana can be harmful to the developing brains of teenagers, according to the research findings from Australia.
The 15-year study followed 1,943 teenagers in Australia, ages 14 to 17 years old, to investigate the link between marijuana use and anxiety in adolescents. Lead researcher Louisa Degenhart, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and colleagues assessed the subjects six different times over the course of a decade and a half. Teens were asked about their cannabis use and were evaluated for depression and anxiety.
According to the study result, teenagers who frequently smoked marijuana were 2.3 times more likely to develop anxiety later in life, while marijuana dependent teens were 2.5 times more likely to have anxiety disorder during adolescence and in adulthood.
The research did not find any association between marijuana use and depression, but the link between pot smoking and anxiety has been clearly observed.
Dr. George C. Patton, one of the study investigators, from the Centre for Adolescent Health at Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne, said the results have something to do with the brain development taking place during the teen years.
“During the teen years the parts of the brain that are involved in managing emotions are still developing rapidly and it is highly possible that heavy cannabis use at this sensitive point could have long lasting effects,” Patton said.
A few years ago, a U.S. study revealed that frequent cannabis users consistently have a high prevalence of anxiety disorders and patients with anxiety disorders have relatively high rates of cannabis use.
Marijuana is one of the commonly drugs of abuse in the United States. In 2009 alone, 28.5 million Americans age 12 and older had abused marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Majority of surveyed participants are 12th graders (34.8%), followed by 10th graders (27.5%) and 8th graders (13.7%).