A recent study was conducted to find if behavioural problems in teens lead to cannabis use or if it is vice-versa.
Led by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the findings appear in the journal Addiction.
The research finds that cannabis use among teens does not appear to lead to greater conduct problems or greater affiliation with other teens who smoke cannabis, associations that previous research had suggested to be possible.
Instead, it’s the other way around: It is adolescents with conduct problems or whose friends use cannabis who are more likely to gravitate toward cannabis use. And that “cascading chain of events” appears to predict cannabis use disorder as the teens become young adults.
“Cannabis use in and of itself does not appear to lead to conduct problems or increasing attraction to peers who use cannabis,” said co-author Dan Romer.
The study follows a group of Philadelphia adolescents over eight years. “Previous studies have not been as able to isolate the effects of cannabis use in adolescents,” Romer added. “But because we had measurements over the entire period of adolescence, we were able to disentangle the effects of cannabis use itself from other influences.”
Lead author Ivy Defoe said, “Interestingly, the results show that not only do conduct problems such as school truancy and theft predict cannabis use, but adolescents who display conduct problems are also drawn to cannabis-using peers. These affiliations predict increases in cannabis use and, eventually, cannabis use disorder, as our results show.”
Defoe said some theories would suggest that teens with conduct problems may be using cannabis as a coping mechanism to deal with disapproval of their behaviour problems and perhaps to self-medicate.
The study concludes that if youth with conduct problems “use unprescribed cannabis to cope with their condition, then healthier alternative coping strategies and support should be made available.”