Background: Why patients with psychosis use cannabis remains debated. The self-medication hypothesis has received some support but other evidence points towards an alleviation of dysphoria model. This study investigated the reasons for cannabis use in first-episode psychosis (FEP) and whether strength in their endorsement changed over time.
Methods: FEP inpatients and outpatients at the South London and Maudsley, Oxleas and Sussex NHS Trusts UK, who used cannabis, rated their motives at baseline (n=69), 3 months (n=29) and 12 months (n=36). A random intercept model was used to test the change in strength of endorsement over the 12 months. Paired-sample t-tests assessed the differences in mean scores between the five subscales on the Reasons for Use Scale (enhancement, social motive, coping with unpleasant affect, conformity and acceptance and relief of positive symptoms and side effects), at each time-point.
Results: Time had a significant effect on scores when controlling for reason; average scores on each subscale were higher at baseline than at 3 months and 12 months. At each time-point, patients endorsed 'enhancement' followed by 'coping with unpleasant affect' and 'social motive' more highly for their cannabis use than any other reason. 'Conformity and acceptance' followed closely. 'Relief of positive symptoms and side effects' was the least endorsed motive.
Conclusions: Patients endorsed their reasons for use at 3 months and 12 months less strongly than at baseline. Little support for the self-medication or alleviation of dysphoria models was found. Rather, patients rated 'enhancement' most highly for their cannabis use.
Keywords: Alleviation of dysphoria; Cannabis use; Psychosis; Reasons for cannabis use; Schizophrenia; Self-medication.
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