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Studying cannabis dependence

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Cannabis, or marijuana, is the most widely-used illicit drug in the world, and it’s estimated that one out of every 10 people who use it will develop a cannabis dependence disorder at some point in their lives.

A study led by the Clinical Psychology program is attempting to gain valuable knowledge on the recovery process from cannabis use disorders in order to help with treatment programs.

PhD Candidate and study lead Jonathan N. Stea says research shows the risk of developing cannabis dependence disorder increases dramatically with the frequency of use.

“There is sometimes the misperception that cannabis is not at all a harmful drug, which I think stigmatizes and confuses those who do happen to suffer from a cannabis problem,” says Stea. “Not all individuals who use cannabis will develop a problem, but some will, and my research is targeted towards helping those people."

Upwards of 45 per cent of Canadians have reported using cannabis at least once in their lifetime, with even higher rates found in British Columbia and Alberta. Of those who have tried the drug, 11 to 14 per cent have used in the past year. And of that group, nearly one in five report using cannabis daily.

“Unfortunately, not much is known about the recovery process from cannabis use disorders,” says Stea. “While there’s evidence that the treatment of cannabis use disorders appears promising, we also know that the majority of individuals with a cannabis problem do not seek professional treatment and that many of these individuals recover on their own.”

The study will attempt to understand the differences between professionally-assisted and natural recovery as well as the benefits and risks of suddenly quitting the drug outright compared to those who reduce their usage. Stea is looking to interview people in Calgary who have had a cannabis problem in the past but have been problem-free for at least one year.

David C. Hodgins, Stea’s research supervisor and head of the psychology department says the study will provide good scientific evidence. “If we can improve our understanding of the recovery process from cannabis use disorders, we will then be able to improve the effectiveness of our formal treatments and develop evidence-based self-help materials that target people who do not seek formal treatment.”

Read more information on the study and eligibility criteria can be found at: or by calling the Addictive Behaviours Laboratory at the University of Calgary: (403) 210-9580.