Cannabis has often been called the “gateway drug” because its use often precedes the use of other drugs and harmful substances. In the study on cannabis use, much attention has been focused on young adults and teenagers. In particular, experts study the effect of cannabis use on psychological well-being. The existing data shows a link between mental health problems and cannabis use; however, it is unclear whether cannabis use increases this risk or rather, if mental well-being predicts cannabis use.
To address this question and others related to the effects of cannabis use, Willemijn A. van Gastel of the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience at the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands recently evaluated surveys from over 10,000 students between the ages of 11 and 16. The participants were asked about their level of substance use, cannabis use, cigarette use, and alcohol use. They also reported any school problems, family problems, molestation history, and other events or environmental risk factors.
Van Gastel found a direct association between recent cannabis use and negative psychosocial outcomes, however, this association diminished when other risk factors were considered. More significantly, several risk factors associated with negative psychosocial outcomes were also associated with higher levels of cannabis use. These risk factors included school truancy, poor school behavior, illness-related school absence, cigarette smoking, and alcohol use.
Further, van Gastel believes that acceptance of substance use, mood issues and low self-esteem might also contribute to poor psychosocial outcomes and increased cannabis use. Another interesting finding was the lack of any relationship between level of cannabis use and level of poor psychosocial outcome. This would indicate that it is only when other risk factors described herein are also present that cannabis use increases negative outcomes.
However, this can also be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use among young adults and teenagers could predict future risk of other negative behaviors and overall poor psychological well-being and psychosocial outcomes. “Thus,” added van Gastel, “Cannabis use can best be viewed as an indicator of risk for mental health problems in adolescence.”
Van Gastel, W.A., et al. (2013). Cannabis use as an indicator of risk for mental health problems in adolescents: A population-based study at secondary schools. Psychological Medicine 43.9 (2013): 1849-56. ProQuest. Web.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.