A study by researchers affiliated with Florida International University suggests that cannabis use by teens is not independently associated with an increased risk of “amotivational syndrome.” The study authors reported that adolescents’ cannabis use was not associated with any significant changes in motivation, apathy, or engagement after researchers controlled for use of alcohol and tobacco, among other potential factors, such as age, sex, and depression.
Amotivational syndrome describes the introversion, passivity, and lack of achievement orientation commonly observed among adult cannabis users.
“Our results do not support a prospective link between cannabis use and reduced motivation among adolescents. Although most observed associations were accounted for by covariates, greater cannabis use was cross-sectionally associated with lower perceived value of school, which may contribute to poorer educational and later life outcomes.” – “Evidence Lacking for Cannabis Users Slacking: A Longitudinal Analysis of Escalating Cannabis Use and Motivation among Adolescents,” Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, July 19, 2021
Researchers investigated 401 adolescents ages 14-17 recruited from Miami-Dade County, Florida middle and high schools who, at baseline, completed five bi-annual assessments. The researchers assessed motivation at three time points using the Apathy Evaluation Scale and the Motivation and Engagement Scale questionnaires, which are designed to measure disengagement, persistence, planning, self-efficacy, and valuing school. The team controlled for relevant covariates using latent growth curve modeling to characterize patterns of cannabis use and motivation over time, examining bidirectional influences between the processes.
“On average, adolescent cannabis use frequency increased significantly over time,” the researchers said. “The disengagement and planning facets of motivation also increased significantly over time, whereas other aspects of motivation remained stable.”
At baseline, the researchers found that the greater the cannabis use, the greater disengagement, lower planning, and lower valuing of school; but greater baseline cannabis use also predicted lesser increases in disengagement over time.
“After controlling for the effect of sex, age, depression, and use of alcohol and nicotine, only the baseline association between cannabis use and valuing school remained significant,” the researchers concluded.
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