Social Interactions Increase Cravings in Cannabis Users

Social anxiety (SAD) can cause people to feel apprehensive in social situations. Individuals with SAD have difficulty interacting with other people and feel uncomfortable speaking in public or in front of crowds. There are many ways people with SAD can cope with their anxiety, including using relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. However, some people cope in maladaptive ways through drug, alcohol, and cigarette use. Cannabis is an especially popular method of negative coping for people with SAD. Although it has been shown that people who are dependent on cannabis tend to have higher rates of SAD than other forms of anxiety, little research has explored how social settings influence cravings.

Julia D. Buckner of the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University wanted to find out how cannabis cravings were experienced by individuals with SAD during highly social tasks compared with nonsocial tasks. Buckner enlisted 82 individuals who reported using cannabis regularly and evaluated their cravings for cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis before, during and after a social or non-social task. Specifically, the participants were instructed to perform a social interaction task or a private reading task. Buckner found that the participants who completed the social interaction task had craving increases before the task and even higher increases during the task. Upon further examination, Buckner discovered that although many of the participants cited alcohol and cigarette use when first interviewed, the social interaction task did not elicit cravings for any substance other than cannabis.

The results of this study show that people with SAD and cannabis-use problems may rely specifically on cannabis as a way to reduce anxiety before and during social situations. It may be fruitful for clinicians treating individuals with cannabis dependency to integrate anxiety-reducing techniques into interventions. Buckner believes future work should include a more balanced ratio of men to women, as her sample was primarily female. Also, prospective studies should compare cannabis cravings to cannabis use in people with SAD. “In sum, the present study provides important experimental evidence suggesting that social interaction anxiety may increase the desire to use cannabis among current cannabis users,” Buckner said.

Reference:
Buckner, J. D., Ecker, A. H., Vinci, C. (2012). Cannabis use vulnerability among socially anxious users: Cannabis craving during a social interaction. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029763

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  • Grenville

    Grenville

    October 10th, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    I find this to be a total cop out.

    No disrespect, but don’t we all have free will? And aren’t there better ways to handle SAD than by firing up a joint? I know that habitual things become tough to break but this isn’t the excuse that I would want my won kids using so I’m sure not going to let a fully rational and functioning adult have that way out either. I think that sometimes they are looking for a justification for their actions, and maybe this is it but maybe it is just an easy way to place the blame elsewhere.

  • Savannah

    Savannah

    October 10th, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    You know another thing I have noticed? That the people that you are hanging out with can GREATLY influence how you react to these desires to use. If you are hanging around with the wrong crowd and they are encouraging the use of marijuana then there is a greater chance that you might use again too, even if you have already told yourself that you are not going to do that again. Anxiety plays a hug role but so do the people you hang around with.

  • brandon

    brandon

    October 11th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    well you can’t crawl into a hole and become a hermit

    there will be times when you are faced with situations that cause you anxiety so you have to come up with better ways to cope during those times

    and if this is a pattern of behavior that began around a certain group of friends then you know that you have to drop those friends and make some new ones or again, you have to create more positive coping strategies to utilize when you are around them and you may feel that pressure.

    really what it all boils down to is becomin g comforttable in your own skin, and how many of us struggle with this on a daily basis?

  • Cathy

    Cathy

    October 11th, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    And if the same people with SAD would pop a pill for the problem that would be good yeah? *sarcasm*

    Why are studies that involve cannabis always so biased and reek of propaganda even now?? Is it not possible that these people have fought from episodes of anxiety well through cannabis in the past and so seek the same when they have the same problem??

    If cough syrup helps me with my cough and I crave for it when I have cough at some point in future is that really wrong?

    I thought at least the scientific community would be more open to the benefits of marijuana now after all these years of deceit and lies from the government, the government which not too long ago used to circulate material saying ‘MARIJUANA KILLS’, which we all now know is a complete lie.

  • SS

    SS

    October 11th, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Never a good idea to turn to drugs for whatever problem you may have.There are better and healthier options like exercise and therapy!

  • Hank

    Hank

    October 12th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Well you can’t just crawl under a rock and hide just because you become worried and anxious in social settings. That’s a big mistake that I think too many people make. Rather than confron their fears they find a way to run away from them.

    In essence this is what smoking poit is, a chance to run away from the things that scare you. You are not confronting, but medicating and hiding. That is definitely not the path to recovery if you ask me.

    better to face those fears head on and see if you can find better ways to confront them, and conquer them.

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