Understanding the Motivations Behind Cannabis Use

Article by Ricardo Oliveira, Lift News

Understanding the motivations behind cannabis use Study explores the factors that can lead individuals to habitual use

People consume drugs for a plethora of reasons. Some do it to facilitate socialization, while others are driven purely by pleasure, or perhaps trying to cope with overwhelming negative experiences.

Different motivations are associated with different drug relationships, some healthier than others. These nuances have been widely studied in alcohol use, where it is evident that people who tend to drink to ‘forget one’s worries’ or because ‘it is exciting’ are more prone to heavy or pathological use, compared to those who usually drink to ‘celebrate a special occasion with friends’.

Probing into drug motives has been helpful in understanding behaviors of dependence and in developing appropriate interventions. When this approach was first adapted to the context of cannabis, it was found that the motives relevant to alcohol use (social cohesion, social conformity, positive effect, coping) also predicted cannabis use and related problems. Additionally, the investigators confirmed the utility of a novel subscale – expansion or experiential awareness – with motives such as ‘being more creative’ or ‘knowing myself better’.

Researchers still believe, however, that there might be additional motives specific to cannabis users that are being ignored. In accordance to this, a pair of studies in 2009 and 2015 identified new reasons associated with normal and problematic use, including boredom, habit, perception of low risk, and management of sleep and rest. Now a new study suggests there might be yet more relevant motives for why people use cannabis. The work belongs to a French team headed by Dr. Henri Chabrol from the University of Toulouse; it was published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

The new motives were suggested by the psychotherapist of the team, who had over thirty years of clinical experience with adolescent cannabis users. The motives were added to the commonly used Marijuana Motives Measure (MMM), and administered together with an instrument that identifies patterns of typical and pathological cannabis use. Besides these, the authors also included measures of personality disorder and depressive and anxiety symptoms which have been associated with cannabis use disorder in previous works. The questionnaires were filled by 249 public high school students.

Over forty percent of boys and girls sampled had tried cannabis during the last six months. Among these, nearly a third of girls (22 in total) and boys (17) reached a score indicative of problematic use. All the motives assessed in the MMM were prevalent among students (except for social conformity), indicating a heterogeneity in patterns of cannabis use. Among the most reported of the new motives figured escape, autonomy, and health, whereas aspects of sexuality and defiance were less frequent.

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