Monday, April 07, 2014

Pot-smoking students 'perform better academically' than those who smoke tobacco

Because tobacco smoking is mostly working class

People traditionally think of the students who smoke cannabis behind the school bike sheds as trouble makers.  But new research suggests they outperform tobacco smokers academically.

In one of the largest ever studies of substance use among teenagers, Canadian researchers discovered marijuana smokers achieve better grades than cigarette smokers.

The University of Toronto scientists examined trends in tobacco and marijuana use from 1981 to 2011.

‘In the past, cannabis use was associated with more problematic behaviours, but this trend has flipped’, said Dr Michael Chaiton, assistant professor in epidemiology and public health policy at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

‘Youth tobacco users are likely to have poor academic performance and engage in socially deviant behaviours, like vandalism, theft or assault.’

The study, published in the Journal of School Health, saw researchers analyse survey data from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, including a total of 38,331 students.

The researchers found that marijuana use peaked about ten years ago but that use of the drug has become more normalised in recent years.

As a result, they say teenagers often see it as safer than tobacco.

They believe that more intelligent students may be more likely to smoke marijuana as it is now less stigmatised than tobacco.

Tobacco smoking rates have also declined by about six per cent among teenagers in the last 10 years.

However, the researchers say smoking cigarettes has become a new signal of social deviation in this age group.

‘Youth smokers are becoming a more vulnerable population with high levels of substance use and mental health comorbidities,’ said Dr Chaiton, who is also a scientist at the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit.

The research also revealed that 92 per cent of teenage cigarette smokers also smoke marijuana and that 25 per cent of teenage marijuana users also smoke cigarettes.

However, 90 per cent of students in Ontario, Canada, do not use tobacco or cannabis and those who perform poorly academically are more likely to use both substances.

‘Drug prevention programmes should be aligned with student realities, which means acknowledging and addressing patterns of co-use,’ said Maritt Kirst, co-author of the study and assistant professor in social and behavioural health sciences at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

‘This study identifies which youth are most at risk and can help public health professionals tailor prevention programmes accordingly.’

Study authors also suggest that marijuana prevention programmes may take a renewed focus on the drug’s harmful effects instead of underscoring the drug’s illegal status – the traditional approach of such programmes.


How a healthy young heart could cut risk of Alzheimer's: People with low blood pressure and cholesterol in their 20s have better brain function 25 years later

Consistent with there being a syndrome of generally better health

Young people who keep their hearts healthy may be less likely to suffer Alzheimer's in later life, say researchers.

They found those with healthier levels of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol in their 20s had better brain function 25 years later.

People with small signs of deteriorating heart health when young were less likely to score well in cognitive tests in middle-age.

Study author Dr Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist, epidemiologist and professor at the University of California-San Francisco, said: 'It's amazing that as a young adult, mildly elevated cardiovascular risks seem to matter for your brain health later in life.  'We're not talking about old age issues, but lifelong issues.'

There are 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK - a figure expected to rise to a million by 2021.

The report is one of the first comprehensive long-term studies looking at the effect of key risk factors for heart disease and stroke on brain function.

Altogether 3,330 18 to 30-year-olds had their blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked every two to five years. Researchers analysed each person's cumulative cardiovascular health over 25 years.

At the end of the study, published in the journal Circulation, the participants took three tests measuring memory, thinking speed and mental flexibility.

Those with blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels slightly higher than recommended guidelines when they were young, had lower scores in cognitive function tests in their 40s and 50s.

The average differences found, although small, were considered statistically significant by the researchers.

Elevated blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are three major risk factors for atherosclerosis, the slow narrowing of arteries caused by a build-up of plaque in the artery walls leading to the brain and heart.

Dr Yaffe said the narrowing of the arteries leading to and in the brain was the most likely explanation for the link between cardiovascular health and cognitive function.

She said: 'Our study is hopeful, because it tells us we could maybe make a dent in the risks of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia by emphasising the importance of controlling risk factors among younger people.'

Previous research suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet can help prevent memory loss and may stave off Alzheimer's.

The diet rich in plant foods and fish, and low intake of red meat, appears to improve vascular function, the flexibility of cells lining the walls of blood vessels, which help keep arteries supplying heart and brain healthy.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'There is mounting evidence to suggest that keeping healthy when we are younger may help preserve memory and thinking skills in later life.

'Previous research has shown that high blood pressure, high blood sugar and raised cholesterol may all be linked to an increased risk of dementia.

'While there's currently no certain way to prevent dementia, evidence suggests that eating a healthy diet, doing regular exercise, not smoking, not drinking too much and keeping blood pressure in check could help reduce the risk of the condition.

'Research to build a more detailed picture of the risk factors for dementia is vital, as the better we understand these factors, the more able we will be to take action to lower our risk.

'If we could delay the onset of Alzheimer's, the most common cause of dementia, by five years, we could halve the number of people living with the disease - that means investment in research is crucial.


1 comment:

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