Teens who are heavy into alcohol and marijuana are less likely to be successful and achieve adult goals, a new study suggests.
According to researchers at the University of Connecticut, these teens are less likely to get married, go to college or work full-time.
The study examined data from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). They also looked at 1,165 young adults starting from when they were 12 and until they reached the ages of between 25 and 34. Most of the participants had a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle who was an alcoholic.
That’s when they found those who were themselves dependent on either alcohol or marijuana during their adolescent years ended up with lower levels of education, often didn’t get married or didn’t have full-time employment, as well as had lower socio-economic potential.
“This study found that chronic marijuana use in adolescence was negatively associated with achieving important developmental milestones in young adulthood,” study author Elizabeth Harari said in a statement. “Awareness of marijuana’s potentially deleterious effects will be important moving forward, given the current move in the U.S. toward marijuana legalization for medicinal and possibly recreational use.”
Researchers also found that such dependence may have a larger effect on young men as they achieved less across all four categories. Dependent women, however, were less likely than non-dependent women to get a college degree. They also had lower socio-economic potential but were equally likely to get married and get full-time work.
“Chronic use,” researchers explain, describes those who meet the criteria for DSM IV substance dependence, even though negative effects on life successes were also observed among users who did not meet criteria for DSM IV substance dependence.
(The DSM, also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the handbook used by healthcare professionals as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders, the American Psychiatric Association explains.)
Parenting expert Kathy Lynn isn’t surprised by the study’s results.
“I think from a parenting perspective the real point is to get to know your teens and their friends which means be the home they can come to,” Lynn says. “There’s always one or two places where kids hang out, and if your place is one of them, then you get to know the kids and what they’re doing.”
The best thing parents can do to help their teens avoid such a lifestyle is to take a proactive approach, Lynn says. This means encouraging them to take part in school activities, sports and so on.
But should parents notice a change in behaviour, then parents should listen before they decide to talk, Lynn says.
“What we tend to do is lecture, we tend to panic but what we really need to do first of all is listen,” she says. “Figure out what’s going on with this child and why this is going on.”
So let them know you’ve noticed a change in them – they’ve become quieter and reserved, are asking for more money, there’s been liquor missing in the cabinet, etc. Then let them know you’re there to talk about what’s going on.
“Telling them they’re going to be grounded for the rest of their life isn’t going to work,” Lynn says. “So listen first, and then talk to them.”
Lastly, make sure to keep the conversation calm. No one is going to get anywhere if the conversation becomes aggressive, Lynn adds.