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Newly married women significantly influence their husbands' marijuana use, a new U.S. study suggests, although men hold sway over whether the couple drinks heavily.
The paper found that men are more likely to resume smoking pot if their new wives also use the drug. Conversely, if women do not smoke marijuana, which is illegal in the United States, their husbands are more likely to kick the habit.
"If it's okay with her, it's okay with him. If it's not okay with her, it's not okay with him," said Ken Leonard, a senior research scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, which is part of the State University of New York.
The paper, which appears in the spring edition of the Journal of Drug Issues, is believed to be the first to examine how newlyweds influence each other's marijuana use, said Dr. Leonard, who did a previous study that concluded men have more influence over drinking behaviour.
Dr. Leonard and co-investigator Gregory Homish recruited men and women -- who had average ages of 29 and 27 respectively -- to participate in their research when they applied for marriage licences at Buffalo City Hall in the mid- to late-1990s.
Using survey results from 471 first-time husbands and wives, the team found women held more sway than men, both for resuming and terminating marijuana use.
"Whether she uses or not is predictive of whether he will stop or start," Dr. Leonard, who is also a research professor of psychiatry at the University at Buffalo's school of medicine, said in an interview. "It was a pervasive effect."
When compared against husbands whose wives did not smoke marijuana, men whose fianc?es smoked pot during the period when they applied for marriage licences were "significantly more likely" to take up the drug by their first wedding anniversary, the paper says.
As well, men who had pot-smoking spouses at the time of their first anniversary were also more apt to start using marijuana by their second anniversary.
Conversely, wives of marijuana users were not more likely to start smoking the drug.
The research, which was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found marijuana use declined significantly for both men and women during the first year of marriage.
From the year before marriage through to the second anniversary, men's use decreased to 19 per cent from 25 per cent. Women's use fell to 14 per cent from 20 per cent.
While other studies have found that people reduce marijuana use as they age, Dr. Leonard said that the trend does not explain the increase in use of the drug among some participants and the large, fast drop for others.
The reasons behind new wives' influence on their husbands are not entirely clear. Dr. Leonard speculated that women have a greater role because relationship dynamics are altered after marriage, giving them more influence. Wives also tend to have more control over a couple's social life.
"If she's a marijuana user, for example, and she's developing plans for the weekend that involve getting together with friends of hers, it may be more likely that her husband's going to be exposed to this broader group that will have marijuana available," he said.
On the other hand, he said, women are inclined to become caretakers of a couple and may want to curb their partner's drug use to protect him.
In terms of heavy drinking, Dr. Leonard believes husbands may have more influence during the transition to marriage -- the year before a couple applies for a marriage licence up to their first wedding anniversary -- because alcohol is legal and women may not take as much issue with it.
As well, he noted, alcohol is seen as increasing intimacy and sexual expressiveness. In the early days, a wife may be motivated to adapt to her husband's drinking to help foster the relationship.
"If she's a marijuana user, for example, and she's developing plans for the weekend that involve getting together with friends of hers, it may be more likely that her husband's going to be exposed to this broader group that will have marijuana available," he said. "
And as we pass we see the marijuana user on the left, and blah blah blah cause we know everything there is to know.