Predicting self-medication with cannabis in young adults with hazardous cannabis use.

Dorothy Wallis, J. Douglas Coatsworth, Jeremy Mennis, Nathaniel Riggs, Nikola Zaharakis, Michael Russell, Aaron Brown, Stephanie Rayburn, Aubrie Radford, Christopher Hale, Michael Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Using cannabis to reduce psychological and physical distress, referred to as self-medication, is a significant risk factor for cannabis use disorder. To better understand this high-risk behavior, a sample of 290 young adults (ages 18–25; 45.6% female) were recruited from two U.S. universities in January and February of 2020 to complete a survey about their cannabis use and self-medication. Results: seventy-six percent endorsed using cannabis to reduce problems such as anxiety, sleep, depression, pain, loneliness, social discomfort, and concentration. When predicting reasons for self-medication with cannabis, logistic regression models showed that lower CUDIT-R scores, experiencing withdrawal, living in a state where cannabis was illegal, and being female were all associated with higher rates of self-medication. Withdrawal symptoms were tested to predict self-medication with cannabis, and only insomnia and loss of appetite were significant predictors. To further explore why young adults self-medicate, each of the original predictors were regressed on seven specified reasons for self-medication. Young adults experiencing withdrawal were more likely to self-medicate for pain. Participants living where cannabis is legal were less likely to self-medicate for anxiety and depression. Living where cannabis is illegal also significantly predicted self-medicating for social discomfort—though the overall model predicting social discomfort was statistically non-significant. Finally, female participants were more likely to self-medicate for anxiety. These results suggest widespread self-medication among young adults with likely CUD and underscore the complexity of their cannabis use. The findings have implications for understanding why young adults use cannabis in relation to psychological and physical distress and for accurately treating young adults with cannabis use disorder.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1850
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


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