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Alcohol and Cannabis Cross Motives, Class Analysis, and Substance Use among Concurrent Users

Dangerous drinking in university communities continues to threaten the safety and well-being of undergraduates throughout the United States.  While alcohol’s physiological impacts remain relatively salient, the sociological and psychological impacts are less clear but nonetheless equally compelling.  Cannabis use rates continue to increase in the United States, and the young adult demographic consumes the most cannabis on average per year.  While not as studied as alcohol, cannabis use has been associated with numerous negative health outcomes related to mental health exacerbations and respiratory injury.  Simultaneous and/or concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis is reported at increasing frequency, and the substances are thought to amplify intoxication through synergistic mechanisms.   

The study’s sample was composed of 524 undergraduate students from a large southwestern university in a state where cannabis is considered legal on a recreational and medicinal basis.  Eligibility criteria included current enrollment and past-year cannabis use and past-year alcohol use.  A subsample of 192 students was identified as having used both substances concurrently at least once in the two weeks prior to initiation.  The following measures were completed by the study participants: alcohol use (via National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Binge Drinking Questionnaire), cannabis use (via The Daily Sessions, Frequency, Age of Onset, and Quantity of Cannabis Use Inventory), substance use disorder symptoms (via DSM-V), alcohol motives (via Modified Drinking Motives Questionnaire), and cannabis motives (via Marijuana Motives Questionnaire).  The data was analyzed using univariate linear regression models.  

Results of the study found moderate relationships between alcohol motives and alcohol behaviors.  Similar results were found with regard to cannabis, especially as motives were concerned with coping, socializing, and enhancement.  Individuals endorsing low conformity were found to use cannabis at the highest rates, and those who scored highest on all motive measures were found to have the highest rates of concurrent substance use.   

Takeaway: motivations of students to use different substances often dictate different patterns of substance use behavior.  Treating the motivations behind harmful substance use will continue to be established in intervention/treatment programs.

Gette JA, Gissandaner TD, Littlefield AK. Alcohol and Cannabis Cross Motives, Class Analysis, and Substance Use among Concurrent Users. Substance Use & Misuse. 2021;0(0):1-11. doi:10.1080/10826084.2021.1967991

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