Understanding the factors that predict future marijuana use, marijuana-related problems, and marijuana dependency can help clinicians and other mental health professionals target people at risk before situations develop. Marijuana use is of great concern to college administrators: Nearly one in four college students will use marijuana at least once during their collegiate experience. Therefore, it is imperative that tools used to gauge marijuana use are accurate and can effectively identify those who are most at risk. One such tool is the Marijuana Decisional Balance (MDB) pros and cons scale. Although this scale was initially designed to measure college students’ positive and negative beliefs about marijuana use, it has not been tested thoroughly.
To further examine whether the MDB is a viable tool for predicting future marijuana use, problems, and dependency, Jennifer C. Elliott of the Department of Psychology at Syracuse University in New York recently led a study involving 149 college-aged students who had a history of marijuana use. The participants filled out the MDB at baseline and were required to report on current use and any marijuana use in the month preceding the study. They were assessed again one month later.
Elliott discovered that more than half of the participants used marijuana during the one-month interval between evaluations. She found that the pros and cons listed on the MDB were both predictive of use; however, the participants who held more positive beliefs about marijuana use were more likely to have problems with use, such as dependency and addiction. Elliott added that even though cons were not predictive of who would use marijuana, the participants who reported high levels of cons were at increased risk for abuse.
Because the sample size was relatively small, the findings from this study should be replicated on larger samples to further test the viability of the MDB. Additionally, Elliott believes that those at risk for marijuana dependency could be targeted with interventions that teach them more adaptive relaxation techniques and more productive ways to cope with stress. “Taken together, these findings suggest that the MDB may be of use in determining which students are likely to use marijuana,” she said.
Elliott, J. C., Carey, K. B. (2012). Pros and cons: Prospective predictors of marijuana use on a college campus. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029835
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