Researchers at Johns Hopkins University had recently suggested to the authorities that they should draw lessons from tobacco control to avoid – in the United States – extensive experimentation with cannabis use from children and teenagers.
This study by the Rand Corporation, an American non-profit political think tank, suggests that we learn from alcohol prevention. Because cannabis is gradually becoming a legal substance in the United States, like alcohol.
And, with legalization, advertising for medical cannabis is also flourishing, in short, a new environment conducive to experimentation among young people. Conclusions and reflections published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, drawn from the American experience.
An incentive environment: Medical use of cannabis is increasing sharply across the United States, with a 40% increase in the number of frequent users since 2006. Advertisements for medical cannabis dispensing points are flourishing on billboards, in newspapers and even on television. The shop windows at the ends of sale are evocative.
Exposure, Incentive, Use: In this study, 8,214 California high school students, aged on average 13 years, surveyed here, found that young people exposed to advertisements for medical cannabis were more likely to have used or intend to use them.
Precisely, 22% of secondary school students report seeing at least one advertisement for cannabis in the last three months, and this rate reaches 30% the following year,
Exposed students are twice as likely to have used or intend to use it.
Experimentation with cannabis is associated with reduced academic performance, neuropsychological performance deficits and in some cases, the use of other illicit substances.
Revisiting prevention: Are teens predisposed to cannabis users who pay more attention to advertising, or is it advertising that influences teenagers attitudes?
Still, the study suggests that there is a need to review recreational cannabis prevention programs for youth based on this increasingly supportive environment. The legalization of medical cannabis and its more accessible and visible commercialization should prompt us to change our discourse on prevention with young people. This time, the author suggests that we learn from alcohol, a legal substance, but not without danger for young people – and not so young.