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“Debt on Me Head”

A Qualitative Study of the Experience of Teenage Cannabis Users in Treatment

James, Philip David MSc; Comiskey, Catherine PhD; Smyth, Bobby P. PhD

doi: 10.1097/JAN.0000000000000301
Original Articles

Background Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in most western countries. In Ireland, it now accounts for most new presentations to substance use treatment services. Cannabis use for most of these people commenced during adolescence. Although a significant amount of research has been conducted on the effects of cannabis on physical and mental health, less is known about the experiences of young cannabis users.

Objective The aim of this study was to understand more about the experience of young, treatment-seeking, cannabis users.

Methods This descriptive qualitative study interviewed eight adolescents who were attending outpatient treatment services for cannabis misuse in Dublin, Ireland. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results Six themes were identified incorporating the early onset of cannabis and heavy use, involvement in criminality including drug dealing to pay for cannabis, ambivalence, experience of treatment, and damage to relationships. These themes are discussed in light of emerging literature.

Conclusion Young cannabis users in treatment can clearly identify many negative aspects of their cannabis use but are particularly ambivalent toward cannabis. Reluctance to aim for abstinence is common.

Philip David James, MSc, Substance Use Service for Teens, St. Bridget's Hospital, Ardee, Ireland.

Catherine Comiskey, PhD, School of Nursing, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

Bobby P. Smyth, PhD, Youth Drug & Alcohol Service, Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland, and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the article.

Correspondence related to content to: Philip David James, MSc, Substance Use Service for Teens (SUST), HSE - Social Inclusion, Donore Road, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland. E-mail:

© 2019International Nurses Society on Addictions
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