Young Adults Add Habit, Boredom to Reasons They Smoke Pot
Young Adults and Marijuana
In the U.S., young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are substantially more likely to use marijuana than preteens and younger teenagers or adults over the age of 25. According to recent results from a federally sponsored annual project called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 18.7 percent of all American 18- to 25-year-olds consume the drug at least once a month. This compares to a 7.2 percent rate of monthly use among 12- to 17-year-olds and a 5.3 percent rate of use among adults who are at least 26.
Recent findings from another federally funded annual survey project called Monitoring the Future indicate that 8th, 10th and 12th graders across the U.S. increasingly find no harm in consuming marijuana on a regular basis (a level of intake clearly linked to heightened risks for cannabis addiction). This means that, in the future, the rates of drug use among young adults are generally more likely to increase than decrease. Not surprisingly, these changes in attitude largely coincide with wider societal changes in the perceived risks associated with marijuana intake. Unfortunately, these perceptions conflict rather sharply with a well-developed body of evidence that reflects the real-world harms associated with marijuana/cannabis intake.
The Marijuana Motives Measure
The Marijuana Motives Measure has been in use in the U.S. and other countries for nearly two decades. Each of the 25 questions in this screening tool asks the individual to address a specific reason for using the drug. The listed reasons include a desire to “forget worries,” the influence of peer pressure, the desire to enjoy social situations, the desire to avoid specific negative states of mind, the desire to recover from a general “bad mood,” the desire to “get high,” the desire to feel pleasure, the desire to increase a sense of well-being, the desire to improve self-understanding, the desire to see life from a different perspective, the desire to increase creativity and the desire to feel an increased sense of openness. Depending on the level of importance attached to each of these reasons, each individual has five possible larger motivations for marijuana use: a coping motivation, a social conformity motivation, a social participation motivation, a self-enhancement motivation or a self-expansion motivation.
In the study scheduled for publication in Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction used information drawn from 600 people between the ages of 18 and 30 to gauge the accuracy of the Marijuana Motives Measure as a tool for understanding frequent, young adult marijuana consumers. All of the individuals enrolled in the study used marijuana at least three out of every seven days in the average week. After each person took the screening tool, the researchers examined his or her responses and sought to fit them under one of the five motivations identified by the original Marijuana Motivations Measure format.
The researchers concluded that the five possible marijuana use motivations originally identified by the MMM accurately reflect most of the reasons young adult, regular marijuana users consume the drug. However, they also concluded that a sixth possible motivation not included in the screening tool, reinforcement of routine behavior, accounts for marijuana intake in at least some consumers. Underlying reasons for use of the drug that reflect such a motivation include the tendency to act out of habit and typical responses to the presence of boredom.
Overall, the study’s authors support the usefulness of the Marijuana Motives Measure in categorizing the reasons young adults regularly consume the drug. They specifically note the accuracy of the MMM coping motivation and the newly identified reinforcement of routine motivation in helping to predict those individuals most likely to develop a marijuana/cannabis addiction.