Evaluation of an eight week group treatment programme provided to individuals dependent on cannabis

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Ms Margaret Campbell

Service Coordinator

Mark Campbell currently works as an outreach worker and counsellor for the HSE Mid – West Drug & Alcohol Service, Ireland. He is based in Ennis, Co Clare and Limerick City.

He has worked in Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services since 1995. He worked in treatment services in the UK from 1996 to 2002 including for Turning Point, Lincoln and Leicester Drug & Alcohol Service. Mark returned to Ireland in 2002 and worked as an outreach worker for the Health Service Executive (HSE) Mid – West, Drug & Alcohol Service from 2002 to 2007. He worked as the Addiction Counsellor at NUI Galway (University) from 2007 to 2011. He returned to the HSE Mid – West Drug & Alcohol Service in 2011. Mark completed a counselling qualification at University College Cork (UCC) in 2006. He has been accredited 5 years with the Addiction Counsellors of Ireland (ACI) and the Irish Association of Counsellors & Psychotherapists (IACP).

Mark has a particular interest in working with individuals dependent on cannabis. He has facilitated treatment groups for individuals dependent on cannabis over the last two years. Mark was mainly responsible for developing the treatment programme.  It is believed this was the first group treatment programme in Ireland that was undertaken specifically with individuals dependent on cannabis.

Background and Aims
Cannabis is by far the most widely used illicit drug in Ireland (NACD, 2011) 1. Among recent cannabis users 9% were classified as cannabis dependent and 17% met criteria for cannabis abuse (NACD, 2013) 2. The aim of the treatment programme was to enable participants to reduce their dependency on cannabis.

The treatment intervention consisted of one assessment session followed by eight group sessions delivered weekly to individuals dependent on cannabis. The content of the assessment undertaken was taken from the Adolescent Cannabis Check Up (ACCU) baseline assessment (Martin et al., 2005) 3. The content of the treatment programme was taken from the manual Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Adolescent Cannabis Users Volume 1, (Sampl & Kadden, 2001) 4 and Volume 2 (Webb et al., 2001) 5. A ‘Readiness to Change’ questionnaire (NCPIC, 2009) 6 and a Severity of Dependence (SOD) questionnaire (Gossop et al., 1995) 7 were completed with participants at assessment and with those who completed treatment.

Motivation to reduce use of cannabis was increased on completion of treatment.

Participants considered their dependency greater on completion of treatment despite a self reported reduction in cannabis use.

The treatment programme was an effective means of retaining clients in treatment and increasing motivation to reduce or stop cannabis use.

The increased knowledge gained by engaging in the programme altered participants perception of their severity of dependence. They acknowledged that their dependence was greater than they originally believed.


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