Pubdate: Fri, 12 May 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Jeff Outhit
Page: B2


High schoolers who smoke weed are dazed and confused, UW study finds

WATERLOO - What happens if you start smoking marijuana in high school?
Do you risk turning into a laid-back stoner, your grades and
university ambitions fading in a haze?

The answer is 'yes' according to public health research out of the
University of Waterloo. It calls on high schools to help prevent this
from happening.

The study tracked 26,475 Ontario and Alberta students over time,
measuring changes as some students began to smoke marijuana rarely, or
more often.

The study found that by the time students are smoking marijuana once a
month, they are four times more likely to skip class, two to four
times less likely to complete their homework, and half as likely to
get high grades, compared to before they started smoking.

By the time students escalate to smoking marijuana daily, they're half
as likely to want to attend university compared to before they started

Researchers conclude that smoking weed appears damaging to teens,
whose brains are still developing. It's smart to stop them from doing
it even as youths increasingly see the drug as benign.

"The goal is really to prevent or to delay use as long as possible,"
lead author Karen Patte said. "We found that those who had started
using became more likely to report lower grades, to skip class more
often, less likely to complete their homework."

The study published in the Journal of School Health arrives a year
before Canada's Liberal government legalizes marijuana in July 2018.

"The current system isn't working," Patte said. Students can easily
access marijuana despite laws against it. Charging students with a
crime "isn't going to help their future outcomes, either," she said.
She pins her hopes on regulations meant to protect children, and on
publicity around marijuana dangers.

The study says "school-based prevention programs may ultimately
benefit not only students' well-being but also their academic
performance." But how to build an effective prevention program is
still uncertain, Patte said.

Local school boards point to Ontario's health curriculum. It addresses
cannabis in Grade 6 and it teaches students about healthy habits in
earlier grades.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board helped to prepare a
regional drug strategy, and the Waterloo Region District School Board
has addiction counsellors in some schools.

"The key message for now is prevention is an ongoing process from
Grade 1 right through to high school graduation," said John Shewchuk,
spokesperson for the Catholic board.

The UW study monitors students aged 13 to 18 as they progress from
Grade 9 up until Grade 12. None of the students are from this region.
Scholars measure changes on individuals. The large sample size is useful.

But the study is not proof that smoking weed causes students to
falter. A reverse explanation can't be ruled out: students who falter
turn to smoking marijuana. Social factors could be in play. For
example, students drawn to an outlaw lifestyle may demonstrate this by
shunning school and smoking an illegal drug.

The study found hints of social factors in comparing marijuana to
alcohol. Students who turn to drinking also perform worse in school.
Unlike marijuana smokers, they don't downscale their desire to attend

This may be because alcohol is legal and its use is often celebrated
in university culture. Scholars speculate that as marijuana gains
acceptance it may more closely mirror alcohol: "Results raise the
question of whether the image of particular substances accounts for
their different relationships with future goals."
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