Marijuana use is hardly unheard of among high school kids. In fact, there have been alarming statistics as to the increase in overall substance abuse by teenagers. College, however, marks a turning point in the lives of many young people. It is an exciting new phase when they are pretty much on their own away from the restrictions that their parents imposed on them back home or the drug testing that they’ve had to endure in their high schools.
Unlike in high school, marijuana drug testing is not conducted as a matter of policy in colleges or universities, except on students who belong to the school’s varsity teams and even then not without any compelling reason.
College presents more opportunities for students to really “indulge” or if they haven’t already done so, to begin experimenting with stuff they otherwise would never have tried with mom and dad breathing down their necks all the time. These “stuff” include wild parties, binge drinking, sex, and drugs, including smoking marijuana. Whatever their motivation, a big percentage of college kids sooner or later will simply say, “It’s just pot, no big deal!”
It is important to cite at this point an interesting research brief published by the College Life Study (CLS) outlining how marijuana use by students might affect their health for the long term. The study covered a 7-year period. They categorized college marijuana users into 5 groups based on when they began using, how often they used and how their habit progressed over the first 6 years of the study. They also measured health outcomes on the 7th year.
Low-stable users – those who consistently used 3x/month or less (10%)
College-Peak users – those who used moderately at Year 1 (7-8 days/month), peaked during Year 3 and then slowly declined afterward (5.4%)
Late-Increase users – those who began at low levels of 3x/month or less and then increased frequency of use during Year 3 (4.7%)
Early-Decline users – those whose moderate use of 7-8 days/month steadily declined through year 6 (4.3%)
Chronic users – those who consistently used 15x/month or more (4.2%)
In summary, this study indicates an increased risk of future health problems for these college students, among them more psychiatric symptoms, lower health-related quality of life and increased use of health care. Most at risk are those that belonged to the “Late-increase” and “Chronic” groups.
Other studies in recent years indicate that the young (and the not so young) don’t seem to take seriously the health risks from marijuana use while in college as evidenced by the alarming increase in marijuana users from 14.4 million Americans in 2007 to 17.4 million by 2010!
Colleges and universities are encouraged to reinforce the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act by updating their own campus policies. It is recommended that they use new assessment tools to spot trouble and take advantage of readily available marijuana test kits or other drug testing kits that are non-invasive and easy to use. This study admittedly needs to be further investigated, but any link between marijuana use in college and future health conditions definitely needs to be taken more seriously.