In Brazil as well as in the United States, well-done studies on the mental and physical effects of marijuana are becoming more relevant, as these countries deal with the realities of potential decriminalization.
One of the main arguments against decriminalization is that it would lead to long-term adverse health effects, particularly for those who use marijuana in adolescence. A study just published by the American Psychological Association is likely to ignite further controversy, as the results showed no long-term adverse health consequences in adolescents who smoked marijuana.
The researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Rutgers University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), analyzed health data on 408 black and white males, starting when the boys were 14 years old. For the next 12 years, their health was assessed by an interview once or twice a year. One of the questions regarded their use of marijuana.
The researchers identified various patterns of marijuana use or non-use for these boys and young men during the 12 years. Forty-six percent of them were non-users or very infrequent users, and the remaining 54 percent had used marijuana to some more significant extent.
The researchers analyzed the health of the young men at age 36, to see if they had physical health consequences that might be related to marijuana smoking (such as asthma, respiratory problems, allergies, headaches, and high blood pressure). They also checked the incidence of mental health issues, specifically depression, anxiety, or hallucinations consistent with psychosis.
Principal researcher Jordan Bechtold, PhD, said “What we found was a little surprising. There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence.”
In other words, the boys that smoked marijuana had the same physical and mental health profiles at age 36 as the boys who were not smokers. They also found no racial differences, but one limitation of the study is that they did not study girls.
The authors acknowledge that their study contradicts some earlier studies which have shown negative health effects, but they say those studies were flawed in some ways. For example, the authors stated that studies suggesting serious mental health issues in marijuana smokers were because those studies were conducted on people with existing mental health problems. Then these individuals were asked if they had been marijuana smokers. Many of them had been, but the Pennsylvania authors state that this does not mean that marijuana contributed to their problems.
Of course this recently published study does not end the controversy, and many more studies on this subject are sure to be published. As new studies appear, we will keep you updated.
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