Tag Archives: teens

Marijuana use teens

Teen cannabis users who abstain for a month can learn better

Marijuana use teens

Credit: Pixabay.

Teens and young adults who regularly use cannabis but abstained for a whole month showed marked improvements in memory functions that are important for learning. This was the first time that researchers tracked cognitive changes over time associated with quitting cannabis use.

“Our findings provide two pieces of convincing evidence,” Randi Schuster, director of Neuropsychology at the Center for Addiction Medicine in the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, lead author of the paper.

“The first is that adolescents learn better when they are not using cannabis. The second – which is the good news part of the story – is that at least some of the deficits associated with cannabis use are not permanent and actually improve pretty quickly after cannabis use stops.”

According to the researchers, 13% of middle and high school students use cannabis, with daily use increasing between grade 8 and 12.

Previously, the same team of researchers found that cannabis users aged 16 and under had problems assimilating new information, something that wasn’t observed among users 17 or older. This suggests that the psychoactive compounds found in marijuana may interfere in some way with the cognitive development of certain groups of teens, whose brains are still in development. Another 2014 study of 16- to 19-year-olds who use cannabis found abnormalities in their brain’s gray matter.

Schuster and colleagues enlisted 88 participants aged 16 to 25, all of whom smoked cannabis at least once a week. The aim of the study was to compare the cognitive performance of young cannabis users who stopped drug use for 30 days with a group that carried on as usual with cannabis use. The two groups were randomized in order to control for factors such as pre-existing differences in mood, cognition, and motivation, but also the frequency and intensity of cannabis use.

Participants were financially rewarded in order to incentivize their abstinence. Regular urine tests were performed in order to ensure that participants in the abstinence group stayed on the track and didn’t skew the results.

According to the results of cognitive testing, the ability to recall new information and to learn improved in the group that stopped cannabis use. No such effect was observed in the group that carried on as usual. In particular, the greatest improvement occurred in the first week of abstinence. A month of cannabis abstinence was not linked to any improvements in attention.

“The ability to learn or ‘map down’ new information, which is a critical facet of success in the classroom, improved with sustained non-use of cannabis.” Schuster says. “Young cannabis users who stop regular – weekly or more – use may be better equipped to learn efficiently and therefore better positioned for academic success. We can confidently say that these findings strongly suggest that abstaining from cannabis helps young people learn, while continuing cannabis use may interfere with the learning process.”

Next, the researchers plan on studying whether attention and memory continue to improve after longer periods of abstinence.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

high school students

Fewer American teens are having sex than at any point since 1991

high school students

Credit: Pixabay.

According to a national survey of U.S. high school students, fewer teens are having sex than at any point since 1991. Among the teens that are sexually active, the study found that condom use has gone down, suggesting that today’s high school students may not be aware of STDs or do not feel they could be at risk of contracting one.

The findings are part of a biannual report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which surveyed 15,000 American teens in grades 9 to 12 at 144 schools about various health-related behaviors.

Of the teens surveyed in 2017, 40 percent reported having ever had sex — a much lower figure than in 1991, the year the first such survey was released, when 54 percent responded ‘yes’. About 29 percent of the survey participants are currently sexually active, meaning they had had intercourse with at least one person in the three months prior to completing the survey. Among this sexually active group, 54 percent that they or their partners had used a condom during the last time they had intercourse. This figure stood at 61 percent just ten years ago.

According to the CDC, there are two major reasons why teens are less interested in using condoms. One is the wide adoption and availability of long-acting contraceptives — various injections and implants that can effectively prevent pregnancies from months to years after their first use. The second reason why condom use may be down is that there seems to be less fear of HIV, now that antiretroviral drugs are so effective.

Cora Breuner, who is a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has her own explanation for why teens are less inclined to have sexual intercourse. “The more kids know about it, the less mystique there is about it,” she told Science News, and “the more they want to wait.”

The same report also found a significant drop in the number of kids using illicit drugs. In 2007, 22.6 percent of the students surveyed said they had used one or more illicit drug, compared to only 14 percent in 2017. Fewer kids than ever are using injectable illicit drugs — the most dangerous of all. “In 2017, 1.5 percent of high school students had ever injected any illegal drug into their body using a needle,” the report reads.

Other findings paint a less optimistic overview. Bullying is still a problem in American schools, with 19 percent of students reporting they had been bullied in 2017, compared to 19.9 percent in 2009. Another problematic metric that has flatlined is the percentage of students who had been forced into sex at some point — around 7 percent, which includes 11 percent of girls and 3.5 percent of boys.

More teens are feeling depressed and/or seriously considering suicide. The number of teens who said they persistently feel sad or hopeless rose from 28.5 percent in 2007 to 31.5 percent in 2017. Those who said they considered suicide rose to 17 percent in 2017 compared to 14.5 percent in 2007.

According to experts, social media and growing lack of connectedness in American society may be responsible for these trends.

Heavy video gaming in teens could point to depression, if it’s always playing alone

Teens who play video games for more than four hours might suffer from depression — but socializing can ward off the danger, according to a new study.

Image credits Unsplash / Pixabay.

Heavy gaming, particularly in boys, might raise a few warning signs. However, not everyone who plays extensively every day risks developing gaming addiction. The negative effects of heavy gaming can be mitigated by socially engaging with friends either online or in real life while playing. High-quality friendships may even make teens immune from depression symptoms associated with heavy video game use, the researchers report.

“If these adolescents are sitting around playing games together with their friends or chatting regularly with their friends online as they play, this could be part of a perfectly normal developmental pattern,” says study leader Michelle Colder Carras, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School.

“We shouldn’t assume all of them have a problem.”


Gaming hard

Carras and her team used data recorded between 2009-2012 by the annual Monitor Internet and Youth Study, a school-based survey of almost 10,000 teenagers in the Netherlands. The kids were asked about their gaming habits, such as how often they played games, about their social media use, and their friendships. It also included questions about addictive behaviors — do they feel like they can stop gaming if they want to? Maybe they can’t? Do they get irritable when they can’t play?

The analysis focused on several types of respondents, most notably on heavy gamers who reported frequent online socializing and those who didn’t. Carras’ team found that in broad lines, symptoms of video game addiction depend on time spent gaming as well as the level of social engagement that is included in gaming. Those who were socially active online reported fewer symptoms.

All subsets of heavy gamers had more depressive symptoms than their peers, but boys seem especially vulnerable — those who were not very active on online communication media reported higher levels of loneliness and anxiety, no matter how good their friendships were. Girls who played video games heavily but were very active in online social settings were less lonely and socially anxious but reported lower self-esteem.

Most of the respondents who said they play four or more hours each day did report depressive symptoms, Carras said. But not all gaming-related disorders need treatment, she added. Parents and doctors need to work at understanding the underlying reasons why their teen plays.

Good games, bad games

Image credits StartupStockPhotos / Pexels.

Instead of worrying that playing a lot of games means there’s a problem, they should focus on the kids who don’t seem socially engaged or show other depressive symptoms.

“Our findings open up the idea that maybe playing a lot of video games can be part of having an active social life,” she says.

“Rather than seeing a lot of video game playing and worrying that this reflects gaming-related problems, parents and clinicians should figure out whether these teens also have high-quality friendships. It could just be that they have good friends who they like to hang out and play video games with. That is probably not a worrisome equation.”

Is the child playing to bond or socialize with others? That’s a-ok.

Is he or she playing all the time to cope with the real world, seeing the game world as a safe place or an escape from loneliness? That’s not.

Carras believes that older teens can usually tell if their use of games or the internet is unhealthy, but younger ones may need help to understand their own behavior. They also need help to handle the problems that may arise from their excessive gaming, and the underlying causes that pushed them to it in the first place.

The team says the results, though based on data from the Netherlands, are likely indicative for other developed countries such as the US as well. Internet Gaming Disorder has been proposed for further study in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5. Still, it’s not yet clear how to distinguish engaged gamers, who show few symptoms of addiction and depression, from problematic gamers, who lose control over gaming.

The full paper “Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents” has been published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior

texting teens

Txting makes u stupid, study finds

texting teens

A linguistic study found that people who regularly text message are less likely to accept new words, as opposed to those that read more traditional print media such as books, magazines, and newspapers. For the study, student volunteers were asked about their reading habits and text messaging frequency, and then presented with a set of words both real and fictitious.

“Our assumption about text messaging is that it encourages unconstrained language. But the study found this to be a myth,” says Joan Lee, who authored the study for her master’s thesis in linguistics. “The people who accepted more words did so because they were better able to interpret the meaning of the word, or tolerate the word, even if they didn’t recognize the word. Students who reported texting more rejected more words instead of acknowledging them as possible words.”

Study participants who were exposed to traditional reading material scored better in identifying real from fictitious words. Lee suggests that reading traditional print media exposes people to variety and creativity in language that is not found in the colloquial peer-to-peer text messaging used among youth or ‘generation text’. The study author goes on to say that reading encourages linguistic flexibility and tolerance of different words. This helps them interpret certain words in  correct manner, despite these being new or unusual.

According to a survey carried out last year by Nielsen unrelated to the present study, Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 send and receive an average of 3,339 texts per month. Teenage girls send and receive more than 4,000.

“In contrast, texting is associated with rigid linguistic constraints which caused students to reject many of the words in the study,” says Lee. “This was surprising because there are many unusual spellings or “textisms” such as “LOL” in text messaging language.”

According to a 2011 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts, the proportion of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 who read a book not required at school or at work is now 50.7 percent, the lowest for any adult age group younger than 75, and down from 59 percent 20 years ago.

[RELATED] Growing up around gadgets hinders hinders your social skills, study finds

Lee says that for texters, word frequency is an important factor in the acceptability of words.

“Textisms represent real words which are commonly known among people who text,” she says. “Many of the words presented in the study are not commonly known and were not acceptable to the participants in the study who texted more or read less traditional print media.”

Source (pay wall) / via


High School alcohol

Teen drinking linked to Internet use

High School alcohol

According to a recently published study, teens who regularly drink alcohol tend to spend more time on a computer surfing the internet on social networking sites, than other teens who don’t drink alcohol.

As a conclusion that both somewhat bashes ‘nowadays teens’ and the Internet, the study concludes that a link between teenage drinking and Internet exists. Though it isn’t a direct cause-effect conclusion, it’s still an association, one which scientists explain by the number of alcohol refereces are portraied all over social media websites like facebook or twitter, as well as online adverts promoting alcohol use. It’s important that parents realize their children face enticements online that may encourage underage drinking, the researchers say.

More research over longer periods of time is needed to better understand the relationship between computer and alcohol use, the researchers of the study, which was published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, say.

“Children are being exposed to computers and the Internet at younger ages,” said study researcher Jennifer Epstein, a public health researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “For this reason it’s important that parents are actively involved in monitoring their children’s computer usage, as well as alcohol use.”

More than 200 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 were surveyed by Epstein and colleagues surveyed about their online activity and alcohol use. What they found was that teens who drank alcohol in the last month spent, on average, 16 hours online per week excluding schoolwork activities. Those who didn’t drink alcohol in the last month spent 12.7 hours online per week excluding schoolwork. Ergo the association between the internet and teen alcohol consumption, I’ll get back to this in a second.

Remarkably, researchers couldn’t find any link between playing online video games or shopping online and drinking. Guess, that’s because kids like to stay sober while playing WoW and unpack a brewsky from time to time while surfing facebook.

Considering that around 2 billion people use the Internet, of which most probably over 500 million are teens, I’m confident one could find all sort of links between surfing the web and other activities. What’s next, “researchers find hidden link between internet use and teen sex”. Twenty years ago, it used to be TV.

The study adds to a growing body of research that has found both pros and cons to teen Internet use. Related to this particular study, a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics which I reported a bit about some time a go, described a new phenomenon known as “Facebook depression,” in which children and teenagers spend too much time on social networking sites, then develop symptoms of depression. And other studies have linked Internet use in general to an increased risk of depression and loneliness among teens.

Researchers agree, however, that Internet use is indeed important and helpful for a teenager. In addition to helping with homework, studies have found online activities help teens maintain ties with friends. I have an idea teenagers are using the internet for much more than researchers are lead to believe. Oh, and one study found those who did not spend time online were also at an increased risk for depression. Again, the key is balance.

“The Internet offers a wealth of information and opportunities for intellectual and social enrichment,” Gil Botvin, a professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a statement. “However, it is becoming clear that there may also be a downside to Internet use.”

More research is needed to understand these potential dangers and combat them, he added. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, some 24 million children aged 12-18 need treatment for alcoholic addiction, but only 2.6 million receive help alcohol recovery centers.