There are lots of different reasons why people might choose to use cannabis. These reasons vary from individual to individual and even from use to use, but here are some key motivations for using cannabis, and their implications:
- Conformity – wanting to fit in or be like others – is one reason someone may use. Wanting to fit in or connect with peers is completely understandable and can be rewarding, but something we’ve noted at Exploring the Link is that many young people in our group regretted using cannabis for this reason. They would’ve liked to ensure that, if they were using, it was because they wanted to – not because their friends were doing it. In some cases, cannabis just didn’t work in their favour. Something to keep in mind!
- Social motives, as you may have guessed, are based on enhancing social activities, such as parties or hanging out with friends. This motive is essentially the equivalent of going for drinks or having drinks at home with friends.
“It’s fun and disorienting like the most insane roller coaster I’ve ever been on.”
- Some people use cannabis to cope with their stress, depression or anxiety. This reason to use is most often associated with problematic cannabis use (aka, use that interferes with one’s goals, relationships, and responsibilities). However, although using cannabis to cope carries this additional risk, it can also be the only resource someone has access to, so it’s important to look more deeply at why someone is using, which supports are lacking, and what alternative things can be done to help.
- In some cases, people might be using cannabis medicinally or therapeutically. The use of cannabis for medical purposes can be done with a prescription (called an authorization, technically, in the cannabis context), but some will also use for this reason without one, a practice called self-medication.
- Finally, last but not least, some people just use cannabis to have fun. This is referred to as an enhancement motive, where the goal is to add excitement to your life or simply just to be high. This is the most common reason for recreational cannabis use.
“It helps me relax – a lot – it makes me carefree – like nothing matters except for the moment…. I’m not used to living like that. It puts me in that state.”
It is also common for people to use cannabis for a combination of these reasons. Taking a closer look at the reasons for your own or someone else’s use can be very informative. When you’re thinking about your own use, you can also consider if there’s been a progression or change in the reasons why you use.
- Did you start to use to have fun, but now you mostly use to cope when things are hard? Are you comfortable with that?
- Did you start to use because your friends were doing it, but found out it helped with your lower back pain and started self-medicating? Does that sit well with you?
Having a better understanding of the reason(s) behind someone’s use can be a useful tool to add nuance and depth to the conversation.