Report Suggests Younger, Regular Cannabis Users May Engage In Riskier Behavior

Feb 13, 2020

Frequent use of marijuana by young adults may drive up risk-taking. That’s from a new study by Oregon State University.

Credit CDC.gov

In the latest journal of Addictive Behaviors Reports, 65 subjects between 18 and 22 years of age were split into two groups. 33 were people who used marijuana at least five times a week.  As psychological researcher Anita Cservenka explains, everyone was given $2000 to spend in a simulated gambling exercise called the Iowa Gambling Task.

“In which participants are selecting specific cards among decks that they are presented, that are associated with large rewards but also large losses," says Cservenka. 

"And so what we were seeing is that frequent marijuana users made more card selections from those decks relative to healthy controls and thus ended up with lower net earnings on the task.”

As to whether frequent marijuana use increases risky behavior, or if risk-takers just use more marijuana…that’s up to another long-term study.

Marijuana’s popularity in Oregon has steadily increased in recent years. The Oregon Public Health Authority says over a three-year period, men’s rate has gone from 14 to 23 percent, while women’s usage doubled…from 8 to 16 percent.

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Cservenka says many people assume today’s cannabis is no different from strains in the 1970s.

"I emphasize the importance of that because long-term studies are needed to try to understand where the potential consequences of cannabis on the individual and in different forms, as well as with different THC content that may not have been available in the past.”

Marijuana’s effects on young and developing brains is another area of study that researchers are trying to learn more about.  But Cservenka warns frequent use may be tied to “maladaptive decision-making.”

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