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New Study Tests Reliability of Marijuana Decisional Balance Scale

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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  • brenda

    October 4th, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Predictability is not a good tool for measuring who will and who won’t try drugs if you ask me. There are too many what ifs that you can’t take account of, too many things that could happen later on that could spur someone’s interest in trying marijuana. I know that researchers and parents and educators too are all looking for that hidden key to discover who will abuse and who won’t but I just don’t think that it’s out there. Sure there are some predicatable habits that could indicate a higher inclination to use this to cope but it is not always tried and true. The best model for intervention is to simply assume that everyone will be tempted by this at some point in time so the best way to reach everyone is to gear programs toward talking to everyone, not just those whom you assume will be high risk. Sometimes the stats can be misleading.

  • Jillian Galloway

    October 4th, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn’t even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana.

    After seventy-five years of prohibition, it’s obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don’t Card, Supermarkets Do.

  • Vince

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Well from my experience in college,those that do go on to abuse marijuana rather than just use it are the ones who think it can solve all their problems,including emotional and psychological ones.Yes,marijuana is used medicinally but that does not mean it is magic potion that can rid your of all your problems.

    Having something that is troubling you does not mean you run away from it and keep using marijuana to detach yourself from it.While it can provide temporary relief from such issues and even help others with conditions it is more suited for,if you want to solve your problems permanently then you just have to take them on and not hide behind marijuana consumption.That will only lead to you lighting the bowl everyday without much of anything else thereby leading to a dependence.

  • Jillian Galloway

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    The weird thing about this article is that it assumes that marijuana use is a “bad thing” when in fact marijuana is FAR safer than alcohol. Alcohol kills 80,000 people every year in the U.S. while marijuana kills NONE.

    Many people regularly consume marijuana for social, spiritual, medicinal and a plethora of other reasons and do just fine at college and in their professional careers.

    Assuming that marijuana use is “bad” is a foolish and inaccurate thing to do.

  • Jillian Galloway

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Saying that a quarter of students consume cannabis so therefore it’s imperative to effectively identify those “most at risk” is extremely silly.

    You offered no proof that marijuana negatively affects these students’ grades or lives but you talk like it’s a given. It’s not because it’s NOT true.

    *Assuming* that marijuana is “bad” and must be eliminated is the mistake Harry Anslinger made when he made marijuana illegal. His flawed assumption causes the arrest of 800,000 people EVERY YEAR. The harm caused by his mistake FAR outweighs any benefit we get from keeping marijuana illegal!

    You need to question YOUR assumptions and stop talking like marijuana use is “bad” when it’s NOT.

  • connie b

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    It’s not that this should be ignored, but there are certainly more issues that can cause this to become the case than maybe this takes fully into account.

  • bobby day

    October 4th, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    shows what can happen when you give money to a quack with too much time on his hands

  • Ned

    October 5th, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    While I’m all for marijuana legalization and free usage,I know there are just so many people who grow to be dependent upon it and ignore other aspects of their lives.This is a gross mistake on their side and they need help whether they see the point here or not!

  • Les

    October 5th, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    If the reliability of this predictor test has not been sorted out thoroughly, then the instinct to trust these results fallaway for me. I prefer to take my information from reliable sources, and not the wikipedia of drug testing.

  • SmokeNow

    October 5th, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    So if Im gonna have a condition that calls for medical marijuana in the future,I would be labeled as someone AT RISK for future marijuana usage?This is just not right…

  • xavier r

    October 5th, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    dependency is possible and although marijuana may not have the addictive nature this sort of dependency and especially for students at an important point in their lives can flush their future down the such a scale is always welcome and those at risk can be identified and helped to get out of their rut.

  • Laken

    October 6th, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    Of course, if their views on the dangers of smoking pot have not changed then there is a great likelihood that they will continue to keep this as a part of their lives.

    Why go through the rigors of changing something when they don’t think that there is anything wrong with it?

    I can tell someone all day long just how dangerous that this kind of behavior can ultimately be, but if they are not ready to listen then I might as well just shut up and let them learn this lesson the hard way.

  • Killian

    October 6th, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    oh for the love of pete don’t we know what causes kids to make irrational decisions like this to smoke pot?
    it’s peer pressure
    it’s a desire to fit in
    it’s bbecause they feel alienated
    it’s becuse of this and that
    they are gonna do it because evverybody they talk to tells them how good it feels
    now how are you gonna combat that until they try it for themselves?

  • Yannda

    October 8th, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Marijuana and decision making ability don’t typically go hand in hand

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