Julia D. Buckner of the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University recently led a study that suggests that college students with social anxiety may be at risk for marijuana use. “Nearly one third of people with cannabis dependence also have social anxiety disorder (SAD), a rate higher than for any other anxiety disorder,” said Buckner. “Consistent with tension-reduction models, socially anxious individuals may use marijuana to manage chronically elevated anxiety, and using marijuana in this way may place them at risk for developing marijuana-related problems.” Buckner and her colleagues wanted to determine if people with high social anxiety (HSA) differed from people with low social anxiety (LSA) in how they used cannabis to cope. Additionally, the researchers also wanted to find out what coping strategies these students employed when cannabis was unavailable. “The present study tested whether using marijuana to cope specifically in social situations and avoidance of social situations if marijuana was not available were associated with marijuana-related problems among socially anxious individuals.”
The researchers administered 24 social situations to a group of undergraduate students using the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) and assessed the coping mechanisms of the students using the Marijuana Use to Cope with Social Anxiety Scale (MCSAS). They found that all of the students who reported using marijuana used it as coping mechanism or avoided the situations if they had social anxiety. Additionally, the team found that these students also experienced problems associated with the marijuana use. “The most common problems endorsed by HSA participants were procrastination (endorsed by 45.5% of HAS participants), lower productivity (45.5%), and lower energy (36.4%),” they said. “Yet, it is unclear why using marijuana to cope in more social situations was related to more marijuana related problems among HSA participants. One possibility is that HSA marijuana users’ reliance on marijuana to help them cope in social situations may interfere with the learning or use of more adaptive coping strategies.” They added, “Furthermore, they may come to believe they need marijuana to cope with these situations and be particularly likely to continue to use marijuana despite possible negative consequences.”
Buckner, J. D., Heimberg, R. G., Matthews, R. A., & Silgado, J. (2011, October 17). Marijuana-Related Problems and Social Anxiety: The Role of Marijuana Behaviors in Social Situations. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025822
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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