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Uruguay: Cannabis use among youth declines after recreational legalization

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A study on cannabis use patterns after the legalization of adult use in Uruguay revealed a decrease in use by students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades. The study, titled “Does recreational cannabis legalization change patterns of cannabis use? Evidence from high school students in Uruguay”, was based on a universe of 204730 students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades and was carried out between 2007 and 2018.

Published in the magazine “Addiction”, the survey concluded that the legalization of recreational cannabis in Uruguay is not associated with increases in cannabis use in the last year/month or changes in frequent cannabis use among youth.
In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize and regulate the production and distribution of cannabis for recreational use. The research wanted to see whether Uruguay's non-commercial model of legalizing recreational cannabis was associated with changes in the prevalence of risky and frequent cannabis use among high school students.

“We used data from repeated cross-sectional surveys of high school students in Uruguay and Chile (2007–2018). Using a difference-in-difference approach, we assessed changes in prevalence from last year, last month, any risky and frequent use of cannabis after the enactment (2014) and implementation (2016) of cannabis legalization among the full sample of high school students. average and among students who reported use in the last year/month”, can be read in the document.

The study separately analyzed the results of students aged 12 to 17 and students for whom cannabis became legally accessible, aged 18 to 21.

The team reports that they found “a decrease in usage in the past year and in the past month after enactment or implementation. Among students aged 18 to 21, post-legalization, we observed a transient increase in 2014, which subsequently decreased to: any risky use among those who reported use in the last year (prevalence difference [SD] = 13,5%; 95% CI: 2,0, 24,9), frequent use in the total sample (PD = 4,5%; 95% CI: 1,0, 8,1) and frequent use among those who reported use in the last month ( PD = 16,8%; 95% CI: 1,9, 31,8)”.

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