Does culture influence how often countries use behavioural strategies to combat cannabis consumption?

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More needs to be learned about what drives behavioural strategies used by different cultures to combat cannabis consumption, intoxication and related harms to enhance the protection of those who use the drug, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico explored the cannabis protective behavioural strategies (PBS) used by five different countries — namely the U.S., Argentina, Uruguay, Spain and the Netherlands — by seeking input from 1,175 colleges students from those jurisdictions who reported past-month weed use.

In essence, cannabis PBS are behaviours used before, during, after, and/or instead of cannabis use to reduce consumption, intoxication and related harms, explains the study published online in pre-proof on Apr. 28.

Cannabis PBS has “been identified to play an important role for harm reduction in adolescent and young adult users,” according to a Swiss study published last month.

Investigators in the current study conducted an examination of cannabis PBS use among college students. Better understanding cannabis PBS across cultures will allow the approach to be leveraged “to address the global health burden of cannabis use, especially in light of the changes in cannabis-related policies around the world.”

Specifically, the U.S. and Spain samples reported the most frequent use of cannabis PBS and the Netherlands sample reported the least. Across all countries except the Netherlands, “females reported more frequent cannabis PBS use than males,” the study notes.

Researchers point out that although not statistically significant, they found cannabis PBS use was positively correlated with weed-related outcomes — such as frequency, quantity and negative consequences of cannabis use — in the Argentina and Netherlands samples. But even though females reported more frequent cannabis PBS, “the associations of PBS with cannabis-related outcomes were larger for males than females,” study authors write.

“Given preliminary evidence for cultural differences in cannabis PBS use,” more research is needed to understand underlying the cultural factors supporting these differences, they note. A better understanding will help “inform the delivery of interventions aimed at reducing the harms of cannabis among college students.”

Cannabis PBS “appear to be an important factor to reduce harm among past-month users.” /

Cannabis PBS “appear to be an important factor to reduce harm among past-month users.” / PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

study published five years ago exploring cannabis PBS among young adults — undergraduate college students who reported past six month weed use — found the mean composite score was “negatively associated with marijuana use and consequences, with the strongest correlations evident for past-month users.”

Notes the study, “Protective behavioural strategies for marijuana appear to be a measurable construct that are related to marijuana frequency and consequences, and, thus, may be a useful component of intervention and prevention programs with young adults.”

The Swiss study earlier this year came to similar conclusions. Investigators report that results showed negative correlations between cannabis PBS and marijuana use frequency and severity of dependence.

Cannabis PBS “appear to be an important factor to reduce harm among past-month users, but not among those with dependent use patterns,” such as coping and routine users, study authors write.

“It is important to determine protective behaviours on the individual level, which buffer the effects of risk factors,” they add.

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