Cannabis use In the UK: a quantitative comparison of individual differences in medical and recreational cannabis users

Beata Ciesluk, Simon Erridge, Mikael H . Sodergren, Lucy J. Troup

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Introduction: There is a paucity of research, especially in the UK, which investigates individual differences in cannabis users such as age, gender, motivations for use, and mental health. Further, there is no current research in the UK which compares these outcomes between medical cannabis users (MCUs) and recreational cannabis users (RCUs). Therefore, the current study aims to investigate these individual differences and compare them between RCUs and MCUs in the UK.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional survey design, data was collected online using Question-Pro between 14th June and 14th July 2022. Participants were RCUs and MCUs currently living in the UK. RCUs were invited to take part via social media. MCUs were recruited from Sapphire Medical Clinics, which provides treatment with prescribed cannabis-based medicinal products in the UK. The survey assessed participants’ demographic data and cannabis use frequency, as well as PTSD symptoms (PCL-5), depression symptoms (CES-D), trait and state anxiety (STAI), and several cannabis use motives (CMMQ) using validated questionnaires. Chi-square and independent sample t-tests were used for comparison of categorical variables and normally distributed continuous variables. Differences in each questionnaire were analysed using analyses of variance (ANOVAs) and t-tests. Statistical significance was considered where p
Results: 161 participants completed the survey. MCUs were older, consumed cannabis more often and had higher “Sleep” motive on the CMMQ (p < 0.05). MCUs had higher prevalence in selfreporting current diagnoses of neurological problems, mood disorders and anxiety disorders. RCUs had significantly higher scores on several motives (e.g., “Enjoyment”, “Coping”, “Experimentation”, “Boredom”, “Celebration”) and higher state anxiety scores (p < 0.05). Most common motives for both groups were “Enjoyment”, “Low Risk” and “Sleep”. The two groups did not differ on gender, “Low Risk” motive, PTSD symptoms, depression scores, and trait anxiety scores (p > 0.05). Furthermore, there was no difference between the two groups on self-reported prevalence of substance use related disorders, and past consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine (p >0.05).

Conclusions: The current study demonstrates a difference in age and motivations for cannabis consumption between RCUs and MCUs, but also shows areas of potential overlap in mental health outcomes, past substance use, and gender. Whilst these findings are UK-specific, they indicate that RCUs experience higher state anxiety, despite no difference in underlying trait anxiety highlighting the need for yet further evaluation of potential anxiogenic/anxiolytic properties of cannabis. These findings hold significant implications for future research, clinical practice, and legislation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2023
EventInternational Cannabinoid Research Society - Canada, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 24 Jun 202329 Jun 2023


ConferenceInternational Cannabinoid Research Society
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