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Marijuana Use and High-Risk Health Behaviors among Diverse College Students Post- Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Use

Cannabis use in the United States has been steadily increasing in the United States due to a multitude of factors related to decriminalization, accessibility, legalization, de-stigmatization, and lack of perceived harms.  While the acute effects of cannabis intoxication are relatively well-defined, the long-term health effects of the substance have not been studied extensively.  The available research does suggest, however, that cannabis use may incur harms related to psychotic episodes in predisposed individuals, as well as respiratory injury.  No matter the magnitude of the harms, health officials are eager to determine the effects that cannabis legalization may have on different demographics.  Young adults consume cannabis at the highest rates of all demographics, with college students being no exception. This study investigates cannabis use and accompanying ill-effects in populations of college students within cannabis-legal settings. 

The study’s sample uses data from 2018 of a large nationwide research endeavor named the National Collegiate Health Assessment (NCHA).  This study’s specific participant data pool is composed of 1428 students from a large minority-serving institution, with the predominant races/ethnicities represented being Latinx, White, and Pacific Islander.  Participant data used from the NCHA examined the following measures as primary objectives: demographics, tobacco use, cannabis use, alcohol consumption, sexual behavior, and contraception use.  The data was analyzed using a combination of descriptive statistics, chi-square tests, t-tests, and logistic regressions. 

Results of the analysis found cannabis use to be associated with greater odds of using tobacco-containing products as well as participating in risky forms drinking.  Additionally, cannabis use was associated with risky sexual behavior and specifically not using contraception during sexual activity.   

Takeaway: cannabis use may be associated with other forms of risky behavior related to tobacco use, alcohol use, and sexual activity.  This is one of the only studies which examines these relationships in a population which provides greater representation to minority demographics.

Chandler L, Abdujawad AW n., Mitra S, McEligot AJ. Marijuana Use and High-Risk Health Behaviors among Diverse College Students Post- Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Use. Public Health in Practice. Published online October 2, 2021:100195. doi:10.1016/j.puhip.2021.100195

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