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Targeted education proved to reduce cannabis use rates

Cognitive behavioural sessions provided to sensation-seeking teenagers can substantially reduce their consumption of cannabis, an EU-funded study has found.
Targeted education proved to reduce cannabis use rates
Reduced ability to sustain attention, impaired cognitive processes or precipitation of psychosis are some of the most worrying side-effects of regular cannabis use. As more and more countries start contemplating cannabis’ decriminalisation, and with an average 20 % of 15 to 34 year old Europeans using the drug according to European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, prevention measures are needed. This is particularly true for teenagers, who are particularly at risk as their brain is still developing.

To prevent and reduce the use of cannabis among such at-risk populations, researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Children’s Hospital involved 1 038 British ninth grade students and their teachers in an experiment aiming to delay the onset of cannabis use and reduce its frequency. ‘The students voluntarily participated in two 90-minute cognitive behavioural sessions that were adapted to their specific personality type. These sessions involved learning from real-life scenarios described by other at risk youth, and were designed to show how people manage risk. Cannabis was not directly mentioned but was discussed if the students brought it up,’ explains Ioan T. Mahu, first author of the study which was partly funded by the EU under the ALICE RAP project.

During the two-year experiment, drug use was ascertained thanks to anonymous questionnaires that the participants filled out every six months, with an assessment protocol including a number of procedures being used to filter out students reporting incorrect information. Approximately 25 % of the teenagers took up cannabis use over the course of this two-year trial.

High-impact interventions

‘There were signs that the programme delayed onset and reduced frequency of cannabis use in all youth who participated in the interventions, but the results also consistently showed that the programme was particularly effective in preventing cannabis use among those most at risk of using – sensation seekers,’ notes Dr. Patricia Conrod, who led the study.

Sensation-seekers are a category of people first identified by Marvin Zuckerman of the University of Delaware for being particularly inclined to taking risks, seeking adventure and new experiences, being disinhibited and largely intolerant to boredom. These personality traits make them particularly susceptible to the charms of cannabis.

While the researchers’ intervention was generally associated with a 33 % reduction in cannabis use six months after it took place, this rate reached 75 % for sensation seekers and also resulted in significant reductions in frequency of use thereafter.

The results of this study show how important prevention measures are, but also demonstrate how different personality traits can result in different responses to such measures. ‘Future studies should look at the motivations for cannabis use amongst people with other at-risk personality types in order to develop intervention programmes that are as effective as this one has been for sensation seekers,’ Mahu concludes.

For further information, please visit:

ALICE RAP
http://www.alicerap.eu/

Source: Based on a press release from the University of Montreal.

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