Young people who identify as bisexual not only use cannabis more frequently, but they are also more likely to use it to deal with mental health issues and for what researchers call experiential “reinforcement.”
A recent study, The Pot at the End of the Rainbow, is one of the first to quantitatively examine the motivations for cannabis use among sexual minorities. Led by psychologists at Washington State University, the researchers analyzed survey data from nearly 4,700 college students from across the country. Of the participants, 23% identified as bisexual after indicating that they were not exclusively attracted to one gender.
“The group classified as bisexual were more likely to report cannabis use for coping as well as for improvement, which is a bit surprising,” said Kyle Scofield, a WSU doctoral candidate in psychology and first author of the study published in the journal. Hemp and cannabis research. “The coping drive was less surprising because we also saw that the group classified as bisexual reported higher levels of all of the mental health problems we looked at in the study.”
The bisexual group reported higher levels of cannabis use disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, depression, and suicidality than groups categorized as exclusively “straight” or “homosexual”—findings that are in line with previous research.
People who belong to sexual minority groups not only face the normal stresses of life, but also an additional column of stress associated with being a sexual minority. For bisexuals, there may be different types of stress because they can face discrimination from the gay as well as straight communities, and the added stress can have negative mental health outcomes.”
Kyle Schofield, Ph.D. at Washington State University. Candidate in Psychology and first author on the study
The authors said the study findings could help improve targeted interventions for the mental health of bisexual individuals.
For the study, Scofield worked with his counseling professor Carrie Cutler to analyze archival data from the Addiction Research Team’s survey, which brings together groups of participants from 10 universities across the United States.
The researchers focused on survey participants between the ages of 18 and 30. They relied on a question asking participants to rank their attraction to opposite sexes on a scale, in which they grouped those who reported being “mostly heterosexual” and “mostly homosexual” as bisexual alongside those. who claimed both types of attraction. This resulted in 3,483 being in the ‘straight’ group, another 1,081 in the ‘bisexual’ group, and a small group of 105 individuals being classified as ‘gay’.
The researchers used the Marijuana Motivation Scale, which builds on one developed for alcohol, to assess five potential reasons for use: reinforcement, consensual, expansive, adaptive, and social. While some motivations, such as confrontation, have negative issues associated with them, gentrification so far does not.
While the study couldn’t give a reason why this drive was so strong with the intersex group, Cuttler speculated that it might have something to do with openness to new experiences.
“Enhancement is about expanding one’s awareness, being more open to experience and more creative, so maybe it all comes back to openness,” said Cutler, assistant professor of psychology and senior author of the study.
From this sample, the researchers also found that people in the bisexual group were not only more likely to report using and using cannabis more frequently, but were also more likely to use all three types of cannabis included in the survey: flower, edible, and concentrates. .
That’s concerning, Cutler said, because concentrates typically contain a higher level of THC, or THC, which is the psychoactive component of cannabis.
The authors acknowledged that the study was limited by using data on sexual attraction rather than gender identity, but they hoped the findings would spur further investigations. The authors also note that they had a limited ability to detect differences in the group classified as gay due to the relatively small size of that group.
“I hope this research will help instigate future large-scale studies where people are able to identify themselves as gay, bisexual, or straight as well as those with large samples from other, less studied groups, such as transgender and non-binary individuals,” Cutler said.
Scofield, K.; et al. (2023) Pot at the End of the Rainbow: Cannabis Use Among Sexual Minorities. Hemp and cannabis research. doi.org/10.1089/can.2022.0240.