Category: Addictive Behaviors
Given recent state legalization of recreational marijuana use and majority popular opinion favoring these laws, it is important to identify strategies that may mitigate harms related to marijuana use among young adults. Young adult veterans are at risk for heavy marijuana use and resulting cannabis use disorder, especially given their tendency to experience more severe medical problems and psychiatric difficulties compared to the general population. Although marijuana has been linked to further substance use, exacerbation of mental health problems, and a poor prognosis for psychiatric or substance use treatment, veterans using marijuana to cope with mental health problems may believe that using marijuana leads to symptom relief. The present study was designed to expand on the veteran marijuana literature by examining how protective strategies used before, during, after, or instead of using marijuana (e.g., take periodic breaks if it feels like you are using marijuana too frequently, limit the amount of marijuana you smoke in one sitting, avoid using marijuana before work or school) moderated the effects of mental health symptoms on marijuana use and consequences. To do this, we used a community sample of 144 young adult (aged 19-34) veteran marijuana users recruited through the Internet. Participants completed online measures of demographics, mental health symptoms (depression, PTSD), and marijuana use and consequences, as well as a 17-item brief version of the Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale for Marijuana (PBSM-17). More frequent use of marijuana protective strategies was associated with less frequent marijuana use and fewer negative consequences for participants. Those screening positive for PTSD experienced more consequences from use but that effect was moderated by their use of protective strategies, such that those with a positive PTSD screen who used protective strategies more frequently experienced fewer consequences than those with a positive PTSD screen who used protective strategies less frequently. There were no significant main or moderation findings for veterans who screened positive for depression. Findings expand on the college student studies indicating greater frequency of protective strategies are associated with less frequent marijuana use and fewer consequences. In addition, this study adds to the literature on mental health and substance use among veterans by documenting a moderating effect of protective strategy use on negative marijuana outcomes. Findings suggest that use of protective strategies may be important for young veterans who choose to use marijuana, in particular for those that may use marijuana to cope with symptoms of PTSD.