Direct and indirect effects of false safety behaviors on cannabis use and related problems

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: In light of increasing rates of cannabis use and use-related problems, efforts to understand malleable psychological vulnerability factors related to use and related problems remain important as they can inform prevention and treatment efforts. Recent data indicate that false safety behaviors (FSB; ie, behaviors that may be effective in decreasing anxiety in the short-term, but can maintain and even exacerbate anxiety in the long-term) are related to cannabis problem severity. Thus, an important next step is to identify factors implicated in the relation between FSB and cannabis use behavior. The current study tested whether FSB were uniquely related to cannabis use problems and high-risk cannabis use motives. We also tested whether FSB were indirectly related to cannabis outcomes via high-risk motives. METHOD: The sample consisted of 349 current (69.6% female) cannabis-using undergraduates who completed an online survey. RESULTS: FSB was robustly related to cannabis-related problems and cannabis use motives (ie, coping and availability) after controlling for anxiety and cannabis use frequency. FSB was indirectly related to cannabis problems via coping and availability motives and to cannabis use frequency via coping motives. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Results add to a growing literature indicating that FSB are related to cannabis problem severity and extend this work by identifying mechanisms underlying this relationship. SCIENTIFIC SIGNIFICANCE: Data indicate that FSB may be an under recognized, yet clinically important, vulnerability factor related to cannabis use problems. (Am J Addict 2018;27:29-34).

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The American journal on addictions

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