Treatment Seeking Cannabis Users Are Aware Of Its Negative Effects

Drug addiction can make people hesitant to get help or seek treatment. But not if you are motivated. A new University of Queensland, Australia, study has found that those who seek cannabis treatment are usually driven by motivation because they are aware of the negative outcomes of cannabis although they find it hard to resist using cannabis.

Cannabis, commonly called marijuana, has been legalized in most states of North America and the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that about 22.2 million people in the US are addicted to cannabis. However, 8th to 10th graders in America have changed their perception of cannabis and its popularity has remained more or less the same over the years. Nevertheless, 11% to 35% of teenagers use cannabis for social or recreational purposes.

However, they report that 17% to 20% of cannabis users in the US seek admission to substance abuse treatment programs and the number of people seeking help is highest among those in their 20’s.

The study was led by Zoe Papinczak, researcher at Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, the University of Queensland and the chief author of the study. Scientists studied the pattern between cannabis users and their tendency to seek treatment and whether motivation played any role.

The scientists used the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) as a model, which is a resourceful context in determining human behavior which can be helpful in examining how and why people seek treatment.

The Social Cognitive Theory implies that psychology, communication and education hold that portion of knowledge by which people can observe others within the context of media influences and social interactions and experiences.

The study included participants who were divided into two groups: there were 195 treatment seekers and 269 non-treatment seekers in the study. Non-treatment seekers were directed to an illicit drug diversion program while treatment seekers were comprehended in a treatment program for outpatient cannabis users where they completed a detailed assessment that included what outcome cannabis users expected and how much resistance they had over cannabis.

The assessment of the cannabis users included the Cannabis Expectancy Questionnaire (CEQ), Cannabis Refusal Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (CRSEQ), Severity of Dependence Scale – Cannabis (SDS-C), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) and Readiness to Change Questionnaire (RTC) which were completed by the participants.

The results showed that treatment seekers have higher negative cannabis outcome expectations and psychological instability and are aware that they are dependent on cannabis than non-treatment seekers. Furthermore, they exhibited they had lower emotional relief refusal self-efficacy – a belief that negative effects of marijuana would curb the desire to smoke it. Contrariwise, non-treatment seekers had no such notions.

The treatment seekers also thought they had a higher dependency on cannabis than what was observed.

The researchers concluded that both of these factors can motivate the users to seek treatment.

The study was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Cannabis addiction is treated with a combination of drugs and psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a likely treatment especially for those who want cognitive restraint on cannabis. The techniques explore the positive and negative consequences of long term drug usage and to develop a self-control to recognize craving early and identify situations that might put one at risk.

What Drives People To Use Cannabis?

Cannabis users are labeled as unmotivated, lazy “stoners” who have “nothing better to do all day” than lay around like a used person.

However, people who actually use cannabis do it as a means of escape from stress or to enhance their quality of life and it also depends on the person, the situation and the method and the type of cannabis used.

Since cannabis has low risk for physical addiction, most people do not use it continuously, rather people use it when its effects are perceived as beneficial according to any given situation.

The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) reports that cannabis users ignore the harmful effects of long term use by saying that cannabis is a naturally occurring plant and people have used it as a medicine for centuries so there is no reason for not using it.

This is known as misrepresenting the harmful consequences because any kind of smoke exposed to the lungs over a long period of time is damaging to the lung tissues in addition to affecting memory, cognition and learning.

Often people compare smoking cannabis with other harmful habits of people. One of the common justification cannabis users have is that “it’s not as bad as alcohol”. At other times, they compare their actions to other activities related to social situations, especially if everyone in a gathering is smoking cannabis.

These comparisons are not very balanced or useful when the whole picture is analyzed carefully as each excuse given has its own motive but the harmful effects of cannabis are not reduced when compared to another substance like alcohol or nicotine cigarettes.

However, social stigmas are the major influence for people to behave like the rest of a group is behaving. If a group acts together on a harmful activity, it seems normal and no single person feels responsible for the action.

NCPIC reports that other justifications aren’t related to making the right choices even when the outcome of their actions can be negative. Some regular cannabis users say they will use cannabis until it has a harmful impact on their life and they will stop when these harmful effects start showing.

Another new purpose of cannabis has been observed in spirituality. According to cannabis users seeking spirituality, it helps them seek a sense of meaning, enlightenment and connection. This is mostly seen in the Middle East and the subcontinent where religious people have associated cannabis use and other drugs with religious obligations. Some believe that cannabis have something to teach them and offers them a connection with their natural world.

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