Stress-related factors in cannabis use and misuse: implications for prevention and treatment

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2009 Jun;36(4):400-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2008.08.005. Epub 2008 Nov 11.


We examined the role of stress as a risk factor and motivation for cannabis use/misuse. A systematic review of studies gathered from PsychINFO and MEDLINE databases was conducted. Findings suggest that cannabis is commonly used as a stress-coping strategy. Negative life events, trauma, and maladaptive coping were all related to consumption. Cannabis use for stress-coping purposes was most evident when examining chronic as compared with experimental use. Although many individuals may be able to use cannabis without consequences, there appears to be a subset of individuals who experience greater life stress and who may be more likely to use for stress-coping purposes. These individuals may be at greatest risk for addiction. Chronic use may potentiate stress-related motivation to use/abuse cannabis and is associated with decision-making deficits and alterations in brain-stress pathways that may exacerbate compulsive drug seeking and sensitize individuals to stress-related drug use. Overall, stress-coping interventions and harm reduction focused on reducing the amount ingested may facilitate prevention and recovery efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Behavior, Addictive / etiology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Decision Making
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / prevention & control
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*