The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has recently released a report that provides an overview of the latest research on how cannabis affects young people's brain and behaviour. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug among Canadian youth aged 15–24 and many young people view cannabis to be a natural and safe substance. What youth might not know is that regular cannabis use can seriously disrupt the developing brain and is related to:
Poor academic performance and deficits in attention and memory
Significantly increased risk of motor vehicle collisions
Experiencing psychotic symptoms and developing schizophrenia
Developing a cannabis use disorder
The report outlines the behavioural and mental health effects of cannabis use, whether the drug is addictive and the treatments that exist for cannabis use disorder. To make informed decisions about cannabis use, youth and their support systems need to be aware of both the neurological and behavioural effects of cannabis.
Check out the report in short or the full report to learn more about how and why cannabis affects youth’s cognition, behaviour, mental health and driving abilities.
A recent study sheds light on the dangerous effects of synthetic marijuana on young people. Between January 2009 and April 2012 synthetic marijuana use was associated with 11, 561 reports of poisoning in the United States. Many users resort to synthetic cannabis in order to avoid possible arrest, detection on drug screenings, or the stigma associated with being an illicit drug user. The research team analysed data from the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF), a study of the behaviours, attitudes, and values of 11 - 18 year old American students. The study examined data from 11,863 students who were asked a variety of questions to gauge their use of natural and synthetic marijuana from 2011 to 2013.
Key findings of the research revealed that:
Males were consistently at a greater risk for synthetic marijuana use as well as more frequent use
African-American students were 42% less likely to report synthetic marijuana use and 36% less likely to report more frequent use than Anglo-American students
Students who go out four to seven days a week are at a higher risk for experimenting or continuing use
Students who engage in the use of other substances were more likely to use synthetic marijuana
Lifetime use of alcohol nearly doubled the odds of synthetic marijuana use
Cigarette smoking increased risk of synthetic marijuana use
Other illicit drugs besides marijuana more than doubled the odds of use of synthetic marijuana
Lifetime 'natural' marijuana use was the strongest correlate for use of synthetic marijuana
Although more research needs to be conducted on synthetic marijuana, the results from this study can help national and local efforts to counteract and prevent the use of synthetic marijuana.
A new study shows that youth living in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide than those living in urban areas. Cynthia Fontanella, lead author of the study, and her colleagues analysed 66,595 suicides of youth between the ages of 10 and 24 in the United States. They found that among males, there were 19.93 per 100,000 suicides in rural areas compared to 10.31 per 100,000 suicides in urban areas. For females, 4.40 per 100,000 suicides in rural areas compared to 2.39 per 100,000 suicides in urban areas. Furthermore, this shows that the suicide rate among young males is four times higher than that of young females.
Many risk factors for suicide have been identified over the years, however, two in particular stand out, psychiatric problems and substance abuse. About 90 percent of people who commit suicide suffer from a major psychiatric problem such as a depression or bipolar disorder. Substance abuse is also frequently linked to suicides because it can increase impulsivity and interfere with mood. It has also been identified that barriers to health care, geographic isolation, and disproportionate stigma associated with mental illness could be reasons for higher suicide rates among young people residing in rural areas than those residing in urban areas. Clinicians have identified that the best way to combat these disparities is to provide and improve access to and availability of mental health care in rural areas. The authors suggest that incorporating mental health care into primary care settings, providing care via telemedicine and creating school-based interventions might help reduce youth suicides in rural areas.
Flavoured alcohol such as alcopops and jelly shots have become very popular among young adults. There are three types of alcopops on the market: malt-based flavoured beverages (i.e. 'Mike’s Hard Lemonade'), spirits-based premixed cocktails (i.e. Jack Daniel’s cocktails) and supersized alcopops (i.e. 'Four Loko' or 'Joose'). Supersized alcoholic beverages can contain the equivalent of four to five alcoholic drinks. A new study shows that teens that drink alcopops are six times more likely to have an alcoholic-related injury than those who do not consume these beverages. The study involved surveying over a thousand young people aged 13–20 who said that they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the month prior to the survey. Researchers also found that a combination of two or more of these flavoured drinks can be enough to cause injuries.
Excessive drinking among teens has been associated with a variety of problems, such as poor school performance and risky sexual behaviour. A new study by Andrew Stickley, a researcher at Södertörn University in Sweden, shows that binge drinking can also be linked to problematic eating behaviour. Stickley and his colleagues analysed data from 2,488 (1,485 female, 1,003 male) Russian students aged 13 to 17 years. Information was collected on six eating problems (worries about weight, feeling fat, excessive eating, fasting and excessive exercise, and purging behaviours) as well as binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a row).
The study found that heavy drinking was associated with eating problems among both sexes, although it was linked with more eating problems in girls. For girls, binge drinking was associated with five of the six eating problems examined, while for boys binge drinking was associated with only two. This cross-sectional association between binge drinking and eating problems found in Russian adolescents was also previously observed among North American teenagers, which suggests that this association might occur across different countries, regardless of the socioeconomic environment or the local drinking culture. He makes one final recommendation to clinicians and prevention specialists based on the association he uncovered: “When one [either binge drinking or an eating problem] is detected it would also be advisable for clinicians to screen for the other.”
Research shows that youth with mentors are more likely to be successful in school, leaders in their communities, and to enter adulthood with opportunities for on-going education and career choices. Yet one in three American youth go through adolescents without a mentor of any kind. A new report examines the role of businesses in addressing this mentoring gap and provides effective practices for businesses.
The report offers these five best practices for businesses:
Align mentoring engagements with corporate strengths
Establish strong relationships with non-profit experts and educational systems
Flexibility is key to encourage, facilitate and support participation (clearly illustrate which mentoring options are available to employees)
Facilitate increased peer learning and idea sharing among service providers and private sector actors
Invest in proven evidence-based programming
This report concludes that US businesses are in a position to open the door and provide some unique opportunities to young people. This is particularly due to the mentors who are employees in the private sector and can therefore provide unique and specialised job-related mentoring that generic/volunteer-based mentoring programmes cannot so easily provide. Additionally, businesses are in a good position to close the mentoring gap because they have the resources and funding to set up mentoring programmes.
The use of methamphetamine has been proven to cause damage to the brains of people of all ages. But, researchers at the University of Utah and South Korea have found that teens who use meth suffer much greater and more widespread alterations to their brains than adults do. Areas of the brain particularly affected include the frontal cortex, which is the area of the brain believed to control organisation, reasoning, and remembering things. This is particularly alarming because the frontal cortex of the brain is still developing in young adults and is critical for cognitive ability. Hindering this process of crucial brain development puts adolescence at a much greater risk for severe behavioural issues and relapsing.