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A study published in Addictive Behaviors this past January made some important statistical observations for college-age (18-24) cannabis users. The study, which investigated cannabis use at three colleges in different states, found that users classify into five distinct categories.

These classes could statistically predict cannabis consequences and Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD.) Depending on which category you fit, you’re more likely to experience negative cannabis consequences or qualify for Cannabis Use Disorder. 

The Study 

Cannabis use research conducted prior to this study has assumed a single method of consumption; smoking plant material. Of course, any cannabis user can tell you there are many more options than just smoking flower. Furthermore, no studies prior have looked at the method of consumption paired with frequency, quantity, and products as a means to classifying users.

“In order to classify how individuals us cannabis in the real world, it is essential to separate these indicators from the outcomes of use in order to evaluate whether consequences vary across these different patterns” (R.L.Gunn et al. 2020). In other words, in order to predict cannabis-related consequences, research should group cannabis users by frequency, quantity, product, and mode of consumption rather than assuming all cannabis users are the same. 

Who Was Studied

The study group consisted of full-time college students, ages 18-24, who reported using alcohol and cannabis within the last month. They were randomly selected to represent the student body at three schools. One school in a state where cannabis was illegal, one with decriminalization, and one legal adult-use state. All states had legal medical cannabis use. A total of 1,390 students completed an online questionnaire to collect the data used in the study. 

What This Means For You

The study found that cannabis users fell into 5 distinct categories. Some of these categories were strong predictors of cannabis use consequences and Cannabis Use Disorder. If you’re following along at home, the frequency classes are; low frequency 1 time/month, moderate frequency, 2-9 times/month, and high frequency, 10 or more times/month. The categories of cannabis users are;

  • High Frequency – All Product Types 
  • High Frequency – Plant Product Only
  • Moderate Frequency – Plant Product and Edibles
  • Low Frequency – Plant Product Only
  • Low Frequency – Edibles Only

The study found that if you are a High Frequency – All Product Type user, you are at risk for Cannabis Use Disorder. If, on the other hand, you are a high-frequency user who only smokes flower, your potential for cannabis consequences drops to only hazardous cannabis use.  

Some other findings that might not surprise you were; white males made up a significant portion of the High Frequency – All Product Type class. Furthermore, the smallest group, Low Frequency – Edibles Only, spent more than 4 hours/day high when they did get high. 

Be A Mindful Consumer Of Information 

Trying to avoid the negative consequences of cannabis use? Don’t want your therapist diagnosing you with Cannabis Use Disorder? Even if you are a High Frequency – All Products user, there are plenty of limitations to this study to consider. The researchers did not measure the frequency for each product type individually. Smaller combinations of use frequency and type need investigation. Furthermore, all participants reported smoking and drinking alcohol. It’s possible that the alcohol variable, which was not studied, is a strong predictor of risky behaviors and Cannabis Use Disorder when combined.

This study also studied a very specific group of full-time college students. If you are not 18-24 and enrolled full time, the results don’t necessarily apply to you. Still, if you feel you qualify as a cannabis abuser, meaning that you continue the use of cannabis despite impairment in psychological, physical, or social functioning, find a therapist in your area or talk to your doctor.

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