SEATTLE — New research from the University of Washington has found that adults who smoke marijuana tend to cut back once becoming parents, but not kick the habit completely.
The long-term study — which was published last month in the journal Prevention Science — involved 808 participants from Washington being interviewed 12 times at specific intervals since the 1980s to gauge their marijuana use and habits. The final interview came in 2014 when most participants were about 39 years old and cannabis had been legalized in the state for two years. Researchers also interviewed nearly 400 parents separately.
The authors concluded that, in general, a greater percentage of non-parents reported using marijuana in the past year compared to parents. According to the study, 16 percent of parents said they smoked cannabis in the past year, while 31 percent of people without children said the same.
Marina Epstein, a research scientist at the university and lead author of the paper, says there is a link between parents using cannabis and their children following suit.
“When it comes to parents, their use is strongly related to their children’s marijuana use, and that is a significant problem, since adolescent marijuana use can be harmful,” she explains in a press release. “Our study wanted to prepare us to build effective interventions for all adults if it becomes an issue.”
The study also found that people who started using marijuana at a young age were much more likely to continue use into their mid-to-late 30s, even if they became parents. Pot use was also more likely to continue when a partner used the drug also.
“This shows that we need to treat substance use as a family unit. It isn’t enough that one person quits; intervention means working with both partners,” says Epstein, adding that future studies are important because attitudes about marijuana continue to evolve as more states lessen restrictions on its use.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse point to the harmful long-term effects of marijuana use for teens, particularly when it comes to cognitive development and important academic traits such as attention and coordination. The agencies agree that parents should try and avoid marijuana when children are present so to prevent kids from mimicking the behavior.