Substance abusers well aware of health risks, research finds

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Young people who are considered "at-risk" for substance abuse or addiction are likely to be educated and knowledgeable about the potential health risks associated with drugs and alcohol, new research suggests.

A Swiss study surveyed 12,000 young men who drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or use marijuana for recreational purposes. Men who abstain from substances were also included in the research. Investigators wanted to know whether men who used substances were aware of the risks of consumption.

Consumption correlates with information-seeking

The study found that 16 percent of young Swiss men had used some sort of electronic media in the last year to find out information about addictive substances. Men who were considered to be at-risk consumers were even more likely to seek out this information than abstainers, especially if their drug of choice was marijuana.

"The search for information greatly depends on the substance consumed," Meichun Mohler-Kuo, a lecturer at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, said in a statement. "Generally, consumers of addictive substances are more likely to seek information on addictive substances compared to abstainers."

Cannabis users were found to research addictive substances four times more frequently, with at-risk users in this group researching addictive substances five times more frequently than people who didn't use marijuana.

Health knowledge

Over 70 percent of the men surveyed who consume addictive substances said their knowledge about the health risks of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana consumption was "very good," which suggested they had more knowledge than abstainers.

Based on the findings, researchers said that using information alone as a preventative measure is not sufficient enough to deter young people from substance abuse.

"It is important to examine and develop preventive measures that take the competence of well-informed young people and young adults into account," Mohler-Kuo said.

Source: University of Zurich

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