The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

03 Jun 2021

Young Aboriginal people who have never used marijuana report lower levels of distress

A new study of young Aboriginal people found that those who had never used marijuana were more likely to report lower levels of distress.

The Next Generation Youth Well-being Study is led by Professor Sandra Eades from Curtain University. It is a mixed-methods cohort study of Aboriginal adolescents aged 10–24 years from remote and urban communities in Central Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.

The study assesses overall health and well-being where participants completed a survey and a clinical assessment.

Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, an analysis of 16-24 year-olds in the study took a strength-based approach by examining the demographic and behaviours associated with never using marijuana.

University of Melbourne Dr Simon Graham, a Research Fellow at the Doherty Institute and first author on the study, said for the past three-decades we have known about the poor health outcomes that can result from alcohol, tobacco and drug use, but less is known about the benefits of not using these drugs.

“We know that being young is a time of experimentation, when adolescents try alcohol, tobacco smoking and sometimes drugs such as marijuana. and we know that these drugs  can  negatively affect a person’s decision making and increased their vulnerability,” Dr Graham said.

“What we saw was that not using these substances can have positive outcomes, most notably, lower levels of anxiety and having a low or moderate distress score.”

Our analysis included 301 adolescents aged 16 to 24 years, who were recruited by Aboriginal peer recruiters in WA, Central Australia and NSW, with 57.8 per cent reporting they had never used marijuana.

It was also found there was a high correlation between not having smoked marijuana and not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco, with about 50 per cent reporting they had not tried marijuana or tobacco.

Being a parent or carer of a child was also found to be associated with not using marijuana.

“One key point to remember is we surveyed young people and although more than 50% had never used marijuana or smoked tobacco, perhaps in the future they will try these substances. This is a normal part of growing up and becoming an adult,” Dr Graham said.  

“We also want to highlight that we are not stigmatising the young people who have tried alcohol, tobacco or marijuana.”

Other peer review papers are underway by the research team about a range of health and wellbeing topics and the study is currently applying for funding  to conduct a phase 2.

News Archive