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07/11/2007 00:00:00

Are Cigarettes More of a Drag on Teens than Marijuana?

New study shows that adolescents who toke up function better than those
who also use tobacco

Reefer madness? Apparently not, according to a new Swiss survey of
students that concludes teenagers who smoke pot function better than
those who also use tobacco. In addition, researchers at the University
of Lausanne report in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine,
teens who only use marijuana are apparently more socially driven and
have no more psychosocial problems than those who neither smoke nor toke.

The scientists surveyed 5,263 Swiss students (2,439 females) aged 16 to
20 years, including 455 who said they smoked weed only; 1,703 who
reported being tobacco and marijuana users; and 3,105 who said they did
not imbibe at all.

"The gateway theory hypothesizes that the use of legal drugs (tobacco
and alcohol) is the previous step to cannabis consumption," the authors
wrote. "However, recent research also indicates that cannabis use may
precede or be simultaneous to tobacco use and that, in fact, its use may
reinforce cigarette smoking or lead to nicotine addiction independently
of smoking status."

Among their findings: Compared with students who reported using both
drugs, those who smoked pot only were more likely to be male (71.6
percent versus 59.7 percent); get good grades (77.5 to 66.6 percent);
play sports (85.5 to 66.7 percent); and live with both parents (78.2 to
68.3 percent).

Cannabis-only smokers were also less likely than their
cigarette-and-joint smoking brethren to have used other illegal drugs or
to have been soused or have used pot more than twice in the previous 30
days, according to the study.

In contrast to those who shunned both substances, the pot-only crowd was
more likely to be male (71.6 to 47.7 percent); have a good relationship
with friends (87 versus 83.2 percent); and play sports (85.5 versus 76.6
percent). They were less likely than the abstainers, however, to get
along well with their parents (74.1 percent compared with 82.4).

The researchers stressed that whereas students who smoked and toked
seemed more prone to psychosocial problems, the marijuana-only users
should not be dismissed.

"Even though they do not seem to have great personal, family or academic
problems," they wrote, "the situation of those adolescents who use
cannabis but who declare not using tobacco should not be trivialized."

Groups working toward the decriminalization of marijuana especially for
medical purposes praised the findings.

"Studies like this show associations, not cause and effect," says Bruce
Mirken of the Washington, D.C.–based Marijuana Policy Project, a lobby
that believes marijuana should be legalized but also regulated and taxed
much like cigarettes and alcohol. "But the drug czar's office regularly
uses associations between marijuana use and problems like poor grades to
frighten parents into thinking that cause and effect is proven. So will
[it] now say that smoking marijuana makes teens have better peer
relationships and be more likely to participate in sports?"

"No one wants to encourage teens to smoke marijuana," he adds, "but this
study strongly suggests that the most serious problems for teens and
parents isn't occasional marijuana use, but heavy use of multiple
substances, which is likely a sign of kids who are seriously troubled
and need help."

Author: Scientific American via UKCIA

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