Research and Long-Term Effects of Marijuana and Alcohol Use

Women combining Marijuana and Alcohol Use

Contributor: Megan Wilson, BS, CADC, Timberline Knolls Residential Center

Society has long maintained that marijuana and alcohol use can result in decreased success. While it is certainly not true that those who struggle with addiction issues are less successful or valuable members of society, a new study from the University of Connecticut Health research department has found that experiencing marijuana or alcohol dependency as a teenager can put one at a career and education deficit.

This study, which was presented on November 5th at the American Public Health Association 2017 Annual Meetings Expo, set out to “track the effect teenage alcohol, and marijuana use has on the achievement of life goals, defined as educational achievement, full-time employment, marriage, and social, economic potential [1].”

1,165 young adults were first assessed at age 12 and continually evaluated every two years until they were between the ages of 25 and 34. Most of these subjects had in an immediate relative (parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle) with alcoholism.

Overall, the study found that teens that became dependent on marijuana and alcohol “achieved lower levels of education, were less likely to be employed full-time, were less likely to get married, and had lower social, economic potential [1].”

Man full of shame with his head in his handsSpecifically, chronic marijuana use was found to have a negative association with achieving significant developmental milestones in young adulthood.

That is, the more an individual used, the less likely they were to achieve these milestones.

Finally, results indicated that substance abuse dependence might have a more severe impact on young men, as they achieved less across all four measures mentioned above.

What Does This Teach Us About Marijuana and Alcohol Use?

Unfortunately, this study, and the response to it shows that the stigma against those struggling with addiction is alive-and-well. The information generated from this research is valuable, but it can also be taken the wrong way by those that misunderstand addiction, further perpetuating the stereotype that addicts are less successful and valuable members of society.

The reality is that addiction is not only an individual problem but a societal problem. These results do not lessen the value of an addict; they increase the urgency of early intervention and prevention efforts.

If alcohol and marijuana dependency in teenagers does indeed result in lower levels of education, employment, marriage, and social, economic potential, it is clear that this is where the work begins. The study focuses on alcohol and marijuana dependence, not merely recreational use.

When recreational use becomes dependent behavior, it is important to look beyond the surface to examine the root causes of the behavior. Research indicates that one of the main risk factors for child and teen substance use are the stressful situations they encounter, particularly peer pressure, peer influence, and aggressive and violent conditions [2].

image of marijuana plant for marijuana and alcohol useFurthermore, a study analyzing the effectiveness of prevention programs for reducing consumption and children and adolescents’ addictive behavior indicates that the length and duration of the intervention sessions, as well as the training of those engaged in the program, are essential elements in program success [2].

The results of this recent study are useful in that they further support the urgency of preventing and intervening with substance abuse behaviors at an early age. From this, it is crucial that parents, clinicians, and teachers educate themselves in successful prevention and intervention techniques to catch the behaviors before they become problematic.


[1] EurekAlert (2017). Booze and pot use in teens lessens life success. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Retrieved on 06 November 2017 from
[2] Kempf, C. et al (2017). What’s new in addiction prevention in young people: a literature review of the last years of research. Frontiers in Psychology.

About the Author:

Megan Wilson photo

Megan Wilson, BS, CADC has been working at Timberline Knolls since 2013.  She facilitates psycho-educational group therapy, completes substance use assessments, and takes on the leadership role of the Addictions Specialist team.

She also individually meets with residents to support a better understanding and application of 12-step recovery.

Thank you to Timberline Knolls for providing this article.

Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) is also available in nearby Orland Park, Ill., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 630-755-5173. We are also on Facebook – Timberline Knolls, LinkedIn – Timberline Knolls and Twitter – @TimberlineToday.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 4, 2017
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12, 2021
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.