Use of Protective Behavioral Strategies Among Young Adult Veteran Marijuana Users

Published in: Cannabis, Volume 1, Number 1 (January 2018), Pages 14-27

Posted on RAND.org on March 20, 2018

by Eric R. Pedersen, Margo C. Villarosa-Hurlocker, Mark A. Prince

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Young adult veterans are at risk for problematic marijuana use and associated consequences, which is partially due to their high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and problematic substance use. Veterans tend to endorse more severe and chronic mental health symptoms compared to their civilian counterparts and they endorse marijuana use as a method for coping with their mental health symptoms. Given the prevalence of marijuana among veterans in the community and in clinical settings, it is important to explore the factors that may help minimize harm associated with use for those that choose to use the drug. The present study sought to examine the impact of protective behavioral strategies on the relationship between mental health symptoms and marijuana use and consequences in a sample of 180 young adult veteran marijuana users. Participants were recruited via social media advertisements and completed measures of marijuana use and consequences, protective behavioral strategies, and PTSD and depression symptoms. Findings indicated that more frequent use of protective behavioral strategies was associated with less marijuana use and consequences. Participants who screened positive for PTSD or depression reported more marijuana consequences than did those not positive on these screeners. Regression analyses revealed protective strategies moderated the relationship between PTSD and marijuana consequences such that young veterans who endorsed more PTSD symptoms and infrequent use of protective strategies reported the most marijuana consequences. No moderating effects were found for the relationship between depression and marijuana consequences. Findings have clinical implications for working with young veterans.

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