The behavioural patterns of cannabis consumption in light and heavy users

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

Dr James Reynolds

Post-doctoral Researcher

Dr James Reynolds is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield currently investigating health behaviour goals (e.g. exercise, healthy eating) and why people fail to achieve their goals. He completed his PhD at Sheffield Hallam University investigating the long term effects of cannabis use on executive function with a specific focus on the age at which one starts using cannabis. He is interested in substance use, addiction, and other public health problems. Future research interests include investigating the risk factors for using certain substances (e.g., cannabis), trying to understand how to reduce the harms associated with substance use, and exploring what effects substance use has on educational and work performance. Outside of research he spends a lot of time with public engagement including giving talks in schools regarding drug use, giving public lectures on cannabis, and he recently was a national finalist in the Vitae ®3MT competition in which he presented his entire thesis in a 3 minute presentation.

Aims: The current study aimed to explore the behavioural patterns of cannabis consumption by determining how these differ between light users (very little use) and heavy users (large quantities of use).

Design: A cross-sectional survey design was employed. A new questionnaire was developed in the current study which has been named the Cannabis Use and Lifestyles Form (CannaForm).

Setting: Participants completed the questionnaire in university campus grounds, public spaces, or in private residences.

Participants: 222 individuals were recruited with at least one lifetime use of cannabis (range= 1  –  18,250 uses) and between one and 17 years of cannabis use. Participants were mostly young (Mage =20.13, SD = 3.92) and female (69.7%).

Measurements: The primary variables of interest derived from the CannaForm were the methods of administration of cannabis, the desired level of intoxication of cannabis, the perception of cannabis strength, the number of sessions per day when using cannabis, and the perception of dependence to cannabis.

Findings and conclusions: After controlling for confounding variables, multiple and logistic regressions suggest that both greater lifetime cannabis use and years of cannabis use predict a greater (1) number of administration methods, (2) level of desired intoxication, (3) perceived strength of cannabis, (4) number of sessions per day, and (5) likelihood of self-diagnosis of dependence. Follow-up analyses explored these relationships in greater depth. Results are discussed with regards to the risk factors for cannabis use/abuse, and with regards to theories of cannabis use progression over time. The findings highlight the utility of the CannaForm for in depth investigations of cannabis use behaviours.


Dr Sue McHale, Sheffield Hallam University Dr Lynne Barker, Sheffield Hallam University Dr Lisa Reidy, Sheffield Hallam University

Conflicts of interest:

Sheffield Hallam University funded this work. No declaration of interest.


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