Background: Correlates of cannabis use and dependence among young adults have been widely studied. However, it is not known which factors are most strongly associated with severity of cannabis use dependence (CUD) severity. Identification of the salient correlates of CUD severity will be of increasing clinical significance as use becomes more socially normative.
Methods: This study used a data-driven, hypothesis-free approach to examine the most robust correlates of CUD severity among a sample of 76 young adults (ages 18 to 25 years) who used cannabis at least weekly. Seventy-one candidate variables were examined for association with CUD severity. These included demographic variables, self-reported and psychodiagnostic assessments of mood and anxiety, self-reported measures of personality, cannabis and other substance use characteristics, and objective and subjective measures of cognition.
Results: Of the 71 candidate variables considered, 27 were associated with CUD severity on a univariate level at a p-value ≤.20. Correlates of CUD severity in the multivariable model using stepwise selection were: more frequent cannabis use in the past 90 days, greater expectancies that cannabis causes cognitive and behavioral impairment, greater self-reported metacognitive deficits, greater anxiety, and lower reaction time variability on a test of sustained attention. Internal validation tests support high prediction accuracy of all variables in the multivariable model, except for lower reaction time variability.
Conclusions: Cannabis use frequency, beliefs about use, perceived cognitive abilities, and anxiety are robustly associated with CUD severity in young adult, regular cannabis users, and may be important in guiding prevention and treatment efforts.
Keywords: Cannabis; Cannabis dependence; Young adults.
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