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06/11/2007 00:00:00

Switzerland: Occasional marijuana use 'does not harm teens': study

Swiss teenagers who sometimes smoke marijuana don’t appear to have
higher rates of “psychosocial problems” than those who abstain,
according to a study published today in the Archives of Pediatrics and
Adolescent Medicine.

“Those who use cannabis sometimes do better than we think,” J.C. Suris,
the study’s author, said in an interview. Light users of marijuana
“don’t have great additional problems. They are kids who function well.”

There’s no question that heavy use of marijuana does hurt, said Suris,
who, along with colleagues at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland,
conducted surveys of 5,263 Swiss students in 2002.

The study also found that teenagers who smoke both marijuana and
cigarettes have a higher potential for problems than those who use only
cannabis. A common theory is that cigarette smoking is an early
indicator of cannabis use, the report said.

“Among cannabis users, non smokers seem to have fewer problems than
regular smokers,” the report said. “Smokers were significantly more
likely to be heavy cannabis users than non smokers.”

Most of the cannabis-only smokers used the drug only once or twice a
month, compared with cigarette smokers, who often smoked marijuana 10
times or more a month, the study said.

The study was conducted on students ages 16 to 20 who completed surveys.
While teenage exaggerations could have occurred, those should be minimal
because the surveys were anonymous, the study said. School dropouts, who
are known to be heavier substance users, weren’t surveyed, the study said.

About 455 said they only used marijuana, while 1,703 smoked both
cigarettes and pot. The other 3,105 said they abstained from both

When teenagers who smoke only pot were compared with students who used
both substances, the cannabis-only students were more likely to play
sports, 86 per cent versus 67 per cent; live with both parents, 78 per
cent versus 68 per cent; and have good grades, 78 per cent versus 67 per

Marijuana-only users, when compared with those who abstained from both
vices, were more likely to be male, 72 per cent versus 48 per cent; to
have good relationships with their friends; 87 per cent versus 83 per
cent; and to play sports, 86 per cent versus 77 per cent.

The pot-only smokers skipped school more often while saying their grades
were as good as those of students who abstained, the study said. The
pot-only kids were less likely to have a good relationship with their
parents, 74 per cent versus 82 per cent for those who abstained.

Unlike in the US, cannabis use has increased in Switzerland and other
European countries, the report said. Cannabis in Switzerland is becoming
equivalent to a social event where teenagers might invite friends for
joints rather than beers, Suris said.

“Nowadays, almost all kids will be offered cannabis,” Suris said in an
interview. He advises parents that if their children try marijuana,
“don’t make it a big fuss. It’s part of their learning, maybe like
alcohol or tobacco was when parents were their age.”

What researchers are not clear about is whether poor grades cause
students to become heavier users of pot or if the marijuana usage itself
causes the poor grades, he said. Suris said a follow-up study should be
conducted to find out how the teenagers fared.

Author: The West Australian via UKCIA

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