Psychosocial sequelae of cannabis use and implications for policy: findings from the Christchurch Health and Development Study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015 Sep;50(9):1317-26. doi: 10.1007/s00127-015-1070-x. Epub 2015 May 26.


Background: The Christchurch Health and Development Study is a longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children who were born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1977. This cohort has now been studied from birth to the age of 35.

Scope of this review: This article examines a series of findings from the CHDS that address a range of issues relating to the use of cannabis amongst the cohort. These issues include: (a) patterns of cannabis use and cannabis dependence; (b) linkages between cannabis use and adverse educational and economic outcomes; (c) cannabis and other illicit drug use; (d) cannabis and psychotic symptoms; (e) other CHDS findings related to cannabis; and (f) the consequences of cannabis use for adults using cannabis regularly.

Findings: In general, the findings of the CHDS suggest that individuals who use cannabis regularly, or who begin using cannabis at earlier ages, are at increased risk of a range of adverse outcomes, including: lower levels of educational attainment; welfare dependence and unemployment; using other, more dangerous illicit drugs; and psychotic symptomatology. It should also be noted, however, that there is a substantial proportion of regular adult users who do not experience harmful consequences as a result of cannabis use.

Conclusions: Collectively, these findings suggest that cannabis policy needs to be further developed and evaluated in order to find the best way to regulate a widely-used, and increasingly legal substance.

Keywords: Cannabis; Cannabis dependence; Education; Gateway theory; Psychosis; Unemployment; Welfare dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Public Policy*
  • Risk
  • Social Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Illicit Drugs