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Study Says Drinking and Smoking Weed as a Teen Really Can Mess Up Your Future

Remember that friend from high school who was nice, but way more into throwing back 40s and smoking blunts than the rest of the gang? Like, already using them as a crutch to escape the more difficult aspects of reality in the 21st century? Do you know where they are now? If you’ve lost touch with “that guy,” there’s new research being presented at the American Public Health Association 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo suggesting that, sadly, he (or she) might not be the biggest success story at your high school reunion.

Looking at data from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, researchers from the University of Connecticut found that teens who were dependent on alcohol or marijuana “achieved lower levels of education, were less likely to be employed full-time, were less likely to get married, and had lower social economic potential,” according to an accompanying press release.

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These results might sound a bit deterministic, and kind of obvious, but they were based on data from 1,165 subjects whose consumption habits were tracked from the age of 12 until up to 34 years old. Incidentally, “most of the study participants had an alcoholic grandparent, parent, aunt, or uncle.”

By focusing on “achievement of life goals,” which the authors, like your parents (probably), define as “educational achievement, full-time employment, marriage, and social economic potential,” they were able to extract some pretty interesting insights about drugs, teens, and the future.

For instance, there were some pretty key differences between the sexes and their relationship to chemical dependency, and it’s a problem that seems to hit young men harder in terms of achieving goals (or failing to), as “dependent young men achieved less across all four measures, while dependent women were less likely than non-dependent women to obtain a college degree and had lower social economic potential, but were equally likely to get married or obtain full-time employment.”

And for all you “weed is better than booze” proselytizers out there, hold your horses. While potentially awesome for adults, it seems that weed can negatively impact the development of teenagers on more than one level.

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“This study found that chronic marijuana use in adolescence was negatively associated with achieving important developmental milestones in young adulthood,” researcher Elizabeth Harari said in a press release, adding that this study casts an important light on how weed affects teens. “Awareness of marijuana’s potentially deleterious effects will be important moving forward, given the current move in the US toward marijuana legalization for medicinal and possibly recreational use.”

It’s worth noting that this research looked at alcohol and weed dependency in teenagers, not casual use—which most teens engage in, anyway. It’s also worth noting that this study is ongoing, so let’s hope the results are a little less bleak for the participants the next time researchers check in.

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