The Effects of Mental Health Symptoms and Marijuana Expectancies on Marijuana Use and Consequences Among At-Risk Adolescents

Published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 45, no. 2, Apr. 2015, p. 151-165

Posted on RAND.org on December 19, 2014

by Eric R. Pedersen, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Karen Chan Osilla, Brett Ewing, Sarah B. Hunter, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

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Research Question

  1. How do youth's mental health symptoms and expectations about using marijuana affect their use of marijuana and the consequences of use?

Based on expectancy theory, adolescents at risk for mental health symptoms, such as those involved in the juvenile court system, may use marijuana due to the belief that use will attenuate anxiety and depressive symptoms. In a diverse sample of youth involved in the Santa Barbara Teen Court system (N = 193), we examined the association between mental health symptoms and marijuana expectancies on marijuana use and consequences. In general, stronger positive expectancies and weaker negative expectancies were both associated with increased marijuana use. Youth who reported more symptoms of both anxiety and depression, and stronger positive expectancies for marijuana also reported more consequences. We found that youth experiencing the greatest level of consequences from marijuana were those who reported more depressive symptoms and stronger positive expectancies for marijuana. Findings suggest that these symptoms, combined with strong positive expectancies about marijuana's effects, have implications for consequences among at-risk youth.

Key Finding

Youth who experience the most consequences from using marijuana are those who reported more depressive symptoms and had high expectations that marijuana would lead to positive effects.

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