Youth Cannabis Use: Something That Really Works
Research is changing the rules of the game again: A two-year study published last month in PLOS One, a leading scientific and medical journal, found that for some street youth in Canada, cannabis is a "reverse drug. ". All participants described their cannabis use as a method of preventing hard drugs.
The research focused on 56 “street youth” in Vancouver, Canada, all of whom were cannabis users. The researchers also interviewed health care providers and youth-focused organizations.
Research has found that youth "can use cannabis to reduce the harms caused by other forms of substance use and to move away from more harmful forms of use."
The researchers sought to examine "how adolescents understand, experience and adopt cannabis as part of their drug use that includes the use of other substances, such as special k, heroin and methamphetamine."
97% of participants, with an average age of 20, reported using cannabis on a daily basis, usually between when they did and when they did not take drugs, mostly alcohol and opioids .
During times when participants only used cannabis and no other substance, they all reported being sober and completely 'drug-free', 100% of them describing their use of cannabis as a form of relief and mental outlet, rather than recreational" page (in French).
A therapeutic and holistic alternative : Participants described their cannabis use as a treatment for anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, and often as a way to “get off” other harder drugs. Participants also said they used cannabis as a way to reduce the use of other drugs. "Many young people have described cannabis as a means of intermittently reducing their use or eliminating these more problematic forms of substance use."
"The herb is medicinal: it is nature's best medicine". It totally cures my hyperactivity and brings me where I need to be mentally to excel in my studies ”. I also have scoliosis, and cannabis has helped me a lot, ”said Blake, 21, who was a daily methamphetamine user at the time of her interview.2020 Cannabis PLOS One
Another participant, Anthony, 19, described his cannabis use as a way to deal with the daily stress he experiences living between two group homes.
“I have been sleeping on the beach for three months. I smoke a lot of weed. And then I have no more sadness. My surroundings are always sad, but smoking weed helps a lot. It's very therapeutic for me. And that just keeps me going, ”he says.
The study found that all of the participants viewed cannabis as a tool that allowed them to move away from what they saw as more problematic substances and alleviate mental and physical health issues. This should be taken into account when working with young people who are facing similar circumstances. In the context of recent legalization in Canada and in the midst of overdoses and ongoing housing crises, It is imperative that future drug policy and program interventions, as well as the education and training of health care providers take into account the ways in which young people vulnerable to hard drugs actively use cannabis to manage their daily lives and their health care needs.