Parents' Marijuana Use Increases Likelihood of Their Children Using it, Too
Tue, April 20, 2021

Parents' Marijuana Use Increases Likelihood of Their Children Using it, Too

Teens and children are more likely to use marijuana if their parents use the drug, a new study found / Photo by: Canna Obscura via Shutterstock

 

Teens and children are more likely to use marijuana if their parents use the drug, a new study found. Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study proved the association between parental use of marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol and their children's use of the same products.

It also established a link between opioid misuse among children and teens living in the same household as recent or past users of the substance. The results didn't come as a surprise for experts, although they still affirmed the importance of the findings.

 

Normalizing Marijuana Use

The study involved 25,000 parent-child pairs who took part in the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2015 to 2018. Teens whose parents were born between 1955 and 1984 were the focus of the study, which analyzed the NSDUH data on the parents' lifetime and past-year use (or misuse) of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

The analysis showed that kids whose mothers used marijuana in the past but not for at least a year have a 30% likelihood of using cannabis compared to their peers with mothers who never used the drug.

That percentage stands after the researchers accounted for other factors such as other children's use of drugs, place of residence, the parents' perception of smoking and drinking, gender, family income, and parental mental health.

Meanwhile, those with mothers who used marijuana within the past year—but fewer than 52 times—were 70% more likely to begin smoking marijuana. Slightly higher results were found in kids with dads under the same condition, according to Reuters, adding that these children were 80% more likely to use drugs compared to their peers whose parents never smoked weed.

Lead author Bertha Madras, from the Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, said parents' past or recent use of marijuana may make it more difficult for them to prevent their kids from using the drug. She added that parents would have to explain why it's alright for them to use the drug but why their kids shouldn't since parental use of cannabis "normalizes" the activity for the children.

"The most important thing to tell kids is to stay away from drugs while their young, developing brains are at risk," the lead author explained, adding that marijuana can lead to derailed brain development, affect kids' academic performance, and interfere with learning and memory.

"If a child uses it before school or even a day before their ability to learn in the classroom is much reduced."

Preventing Generational Use of Marijuana

Even with the adverse effects of marijuana use among teens and young adults, it doesn't stop them from taking the drug. In fact, there has been a rise in the number of adolescents who use cannabis. The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that 23% of 12th graders in 2017 were using marijuana compared to 19% in 2007.

Nearly 53% of people aged 18 or older also reported first using the drug when they were between 12 and 17 years old while 2% said they used marijuana before the age of 12, as per data on health and wellness website VeryWell Mind. It adds that the substance accounts for 17% admissions in treatment facilities in the US—second to opioids and other illicit drugs.

Moreover, Madras said there is also a rise in the parents' use of marijuana to which she "wondered whether this could be associated with offspring use of specific substances and across several substances." The lead author added that some parents told her they used the substance as a means to bond with their children, especially boys.

"They became horrified after witnessing their sons progress to using other drugs, especially heroin," she told Healthline, a wellness website dedicated to making health and wellness information accessible, understandable, and actionable so that readers can make the best possible decisions about their health.

The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that 23% of 12th graders in 2017 were using marijuana compared to 19% in 2007 / Photo by: Jan Mika via Shutterstock

 

Madras noted how a handful of earlier studies directly examined if parental marijuana use would increase the risk of misusing illicit drugs like opioids among teens living at home with parents.

"Most importantly, and to the best of our knowledge, none of the existing research simultaneously explored the frequency of parental marijuana use and whether it related to adolescent and young adult offspring’s marijuana, tobacco, alcohol use, and opioid misuse," she explained.


The lead author believes that the study still presents vital information for all parents, although it wasn't able to "disentangle" the effects of genetics against that of environmental factors. This means the results emphasize the need for parents who use marijuana to consider the impact it may have on their children.

Michael Lynch, medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC, told Reuters that parents who used the drug should have an uncandid talk with their children and share why they stopped and why they don't see it as a good thing.

He added that those who still use the drug might consider quitting but for those who don't want to quit, they would "need to have a discussion about the difference between adults and adolescents use."