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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


DORR, Anneliese; GOROSTEGUI, M. Elena; VIANI, Sandra  e  DORR B, M. Paz. Teenage consumers of marijuana: implications for the familiy and the school. Salud Ment [online]. 2009, vol.32, n.4, pp.269-278. ISSN 0185-3325.

Human groups make up for themselves, for the others and for the events they live explanations that, although not scientific, determine the practices that regulate their behavior. In the case of marijuana consumption, the representations of young people in particular and society in general influence the decision about whether or not to continue consuming. The perception of risk associated with consumption by high school students dropped from 60% in 1994 to 36.9% in 2004, which backs up the relationship between high consumption and low risk perception. Cannabis is the illegal drug with the highest indexes of consumption in the world with an increasing growth rate, to which we may add the alarming reduction in the age when people begin consuming it. This research paper is concerned with the effects of consumption on cognitive processes in school and social performance: a drop in performance, more problems getting along with others, absenteeism and drop out. The study aims to know how low marihuana doses affect cognitive ability in post-primary students. There are no studies concerned with the effect of marihuana in non-patient students (i.e. not diagnosed with addictive behavior and not considered socially as drug addicts). Material and methods Sample: The sample comes from high school students in public schools, private subsidized schools and private paying schools. The sample was stratified by non-proportional affixation, considering the sex, course and social economic level variables, and was made up of 304 students in high schools of the Metropolitan Area (Santiago), belonging to low, medium, and high socioeconomic groups (determined by dependence and the city in which the school is located). The research is descriptive, not experimental, ex post facto. Instruments: Group application to the entire sample (n = 304) a) Psychosocial evaluation and consumption questionnaire, abbreviated and adapted, aimed at the collection of demographic data, consumption behaviors and other required information. The young people are identified with a number in order to ensure their anonymity and thus promote the truth of the responses. b) Domino Test (D-48): Evaluates non-verbal intelligence. It controls differences caused by social and educative factors. It is applied on a group basis in order to discard subjects whose IQ is lower than average, regardless of consumption. Individual application to the consumer group and the non-consumer group. a) Rey Complex Figure Test: Widely used in recent studies on the effects of drugs on teenagers. Evaluates neuropsychological functioning. b) Benton Test: Evaluates current intellectual efficiency from the attention span, concentration and immediate retention. c) Verbal memory (Rey): Evaluates immediate verbal memory. Results General: The total results for the three schools polled and evaluated show that 14.5% of the students declared that they consumed marijuana at least four times during the last month. The proportion in the three establishments is not distributed in a homogenous fashion, but is concentrated in the low social economic level school (27.8%), with the lowest percentage in the high social economic level school. With regard to sex, 11% are girls and 15.7% are boys. Although a higher proportion of the boys consumed, the consumption in girls shows a sustained increase in recent years. A significant group is beginning to consume marijuana at age 15 or even earlier. The perception of risk associated with frequent consumption and the possibility of quitting smoking on a voluntary basis show significant differences: among consumers (C), 51% consider that there is no risk or negative effect in consumption, while only 10% of non-consumers (NC) share this perception. Protective factors or those associated with risk The family. In this study, the objective characteristics of families are not researched, but only the perception teenagers have of them. In any case, only 24% of the C state that their families have any influence on what they think, and another 54.8% agrees that they would not do anything, or simply do not know how their parents would react if they found out they consumed. School. The results on the perception of consumers and non-consumers in the school context shows that in general consumers perceive the school as less demanding than non-consumers as far as the existence of disciplinary standards is concerned. Regarding the reactions of teachers who found out that the students consumed, the proportion of NC who perceive the teacher in a more active role is higher: they would scold him (24.1%), they would talk to the student (27.6%). While only 10% believe that they would do nothing, 32.6% of the C share this perception. Around 35% of the total group does not know what the teacher would do. Peer groups. In the case of C, more than half of them (54.2%) state that it is their friends who have more influence on the way they think, compared to 29.5% of the NC who believe the same thing. The friends and classmates of the C are perceived by them (67.4%) as not caring about whether they consume or not. This perception is reversed in the case of the NC, in which the majority (63.7%) consider that the group would try to dissuade their consumption. They add that in 74% of the cases the student states that marijuana is provided by persons close at hand: friends (74%) and acquaintances (12%). Conclusions Regarding group behavior in general: In demographic terms, the results show that the number of consumers in schools belonging to the marginal and economically deprived sectors is higher than that detected in medium and high socio-economic level schools. In all sectors we see people starting to consume marijuana at ever younger ages: 15 years and even less, in a significant percentage of the sample. The results coincide with the majority of studies performed recently, which point to a sustained reduction in the age when people start consuming, which considerably increases the risks of damage. Effects of consumption on cognitive functions: On workstyle. By comparing the results of the two groups (consumers and non-consumers) we can conclude that consumers obtain much lower scores than the control group in tests that evaluate accuracy and workstyle, showing strategies and approaches to the task which could be expected from subjects with possible neurological damage. Visual and verbal memory. As far as visual memory is concerned, the results of consumers indicate scores far lower than those achieved by control groups in tasks that require this kind of memory to be carried out successfully. Despite consumers having obtained somewhat lower scores, verbal memory does not appear to be so damaged. Attention, concentration. According to their performance on tests that evaluate current intellectual efficiency from the ability to focus/concentrate and retain information for a short time, the results are significantly lower in the consumer group. The results suggest a possible alteration in the integration and structuring of spatial stimuli, if we consider the large number of errors made by consumers and that they may indicate organic and cerebral damages. Even though from the results of this work it is not possible to determine with accuracy the magnitude of the damage caused or even if this damage is the direct and exclusive effect of the consumption of marijuana, we can establish: a) a clear association between consumption and a significant drop in scores in the cognitive functions evaluated compared to what was expected, b) scores significantly lower than those obtained by the control groups consisting of non-consumers, and c) deficiencies in the styles and strategies of execution employed in the task and in the organization of the material.

Palavras-chave : Cannabis; adolescents; consumption; neurological damage; cognitive functions; school; family.

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