Chronic weed smokers ended up with “lower-paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs” than non-regular smokers.
A new study conducted by an international team of researchers followed children from birth up to age 38, finding that those who smoked cannabis four or more days of the week over many years ended up experiencing more financial and social problems at midlife than those who didn’t regularly smoke weed.
In fact, of the 947 study participants, the chronic pot smokers ended up with “lower-paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs” than those who weren’t regular cannabis smokers, according to the press release.
They also ended up in lower social classes than their parents, and the researchers report that the financial and relationship difficulties worsened as the number of years of regular cannabis use progressed.
"Our research does not support arguments for or against cannabis legalization," said Magdalena Cerdá, first author of the study and an epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. "But it does show that cannabis was not safe for the long-term users tracked in our study."
Cerdá says that regular cannabis users experienced more financial problems that those who didn’t report persistent pot use, such as troubles with debt and cash flow. The problems delved deeper than pure financial issues, however.
"Regular long-term users also had more antisocial behaviors at work, such as stealing money or lying to get a job, and experienced more relationship problems, such as intimate partner violence and controlling abuse,” she said in the press release.
These findings held true even after the researchers accounted for a variety of other potential differences between the regular cannabis users and non-chronic smokers, like socioeconomic problems in childhood, higher levels of impulsivity, antisocial behavior and depression in adolescence, lower IQ, lower motivation levels, criminal convictions, and abuse of alcohol and hard drugs.
"Even among cannabis users who were never convicted for a cannabis offense, we found that persistent and regular cannabis use was linked to economic and social problems,” said psychologist Avshalom Caspi of Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.
The researchers also decided to compare heavy alcohol use with heavy cannabis use since both are associated with declines in social class, antisocial behaviors, and relationship problems, according to the team.
"Cannabis may be safer than alcohol for your health, but not for your finances," said Terrie Moffitt, another psychologist with dual associations at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.
The study didn’t compare the effects of chronic cannabis or alcohol use on bodily health, but from an economic and social perspective, the researchers say that cannabis appears to be just as harmful as alcohol.
"Alcohol is still a bigger problem than cannabis because alcohol use is more prevalent than cannabis use," Cerdá said. "But, as the legalization of cannabis increases around the world, the economic and social burden posed by regular cannabis use could increase as well.”
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