Stopped Early, Teen Drug Abuse Won’t Harm Life Success

If they quit early on, there’s a good chance that teenage drug abusers can still succeed in life, researchers say.

The findings show the importance of stopping drug use by early adulthood in order to protect future health and well-being, according to Jake Najman, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, and co-author of a new study.

“Adolescent behavior problems predict drug use at 21 years, and drug use and life success at 30 years,” Najman said.

“But teenage drug use or disorders don’t appear to predict life success in adulthood among those who’ve ceased taking drugs before the age of 30,” Najman added. “What seems to best predict low life success outcomes is the persistence (over a longer course of time) of cannabis and amphetamine use.”

For the study, the investigators followed 2,350 participants from age 14 to 30.

Overall, 22% reported cannabis abuse and 4% reported amphetamine abuse. These study participants started using at ages ranging from 15 to 19.

At age 21, almost one in five reported cannabis abuse, 0.7% reported amphetamine abuse, and 3% reported abuse of both drugs. Of those participants, abuse persisted at age 30 for 36% of pot users and 60% of those on both marijuana and amphetamines.

However, a large majority of those who had ever met the criteria for drug abuse were no longer using at clinically significant levels by age 21, according to the study.

The researchers found that those who broke their drug habit before age 30 did not have reduced economic or relationship success, or lower life quality, at that age.

However, high pot use at age 30 was strongly associated with high rates of poor life success.

The results were published Feb. 23 in the journal Addiction Research & Theory.

These “findings linking problem behavior and school problems in adolescence with drug use and life success represent an opportunity for policymakers to alter the young person’s life trajectory,” Najman said in a journal news release.

More research is needed into how to prevent the continued use of drugs from the teens into adulthood, the study authors said.

More information

There’s more on substance use at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SOURCE: Addiction Research & Theory, news release, Feb. 23, 2022