Marijuana Use by Teens Can be Prevented or Reduced, Study Suggests

Canadian Researchers may have found a way to prevent, reduce or delay cannabis use amongst some at-risk youth.

"Marijuana use is highly prevalent among teenagers in North America and Europe," said Dr. Patricia Conrod, who led the study, in a news release. "As attitudes and laws towards marijuana are changing, it is important to find ways to prevent and reduce its use amongst at-risk youth. Our study reveals that targeted, brief interventions by trained teachers can achieve that goal."

The study involved working with 1,038 high-risk British students and their teachers at 21 high schools in London. The children, who were in ninth grade were identified as being at high-risk by their responses to a clinically-validated personality assessment. People who are sensitive to anxiety or negative thinking, or who are impulsive or sensation-seeking are known to be at greater risk of substance abuse.

Approximately 25 percent of high-risk youth used marijuana during the course of the two-year trial. The intervention was associated with a 33 percent reduction in cannabis use rates within the first six months after the intervention and then reduced frequency of use another six months later.

"There were signs that the program delayed onset and reduced frequency of cannabis use in all youth who participated in the interventions, but the results also consistently showed that the program was particularly effective in preventing cannabis use among those most at risk of using sensation seekers," said Dr. Conrod.

Sensation-seekers are people who require a lot of stimulation, and they are willing to take greater risks than most people to obtain experience excitement. They also tend to be less inhibited and less tolerant of boredom, Conrod said.

She and her research team recommend that prevention strategies continue to be implemented in communities.

"Given the well-documented and deleterious effects of early-onset marijuana use among teens, prevention and delay of this behavior is of utmost importance for the public, particularly as society experiments with different public policies to regulate cannabis-related harm to society,” Conrod concluded.

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