A quantitative study to investigate student attitudes and beliefs towards cannabis use and associated drug policies in the UK

  • Oliver Adams
Keywords: Cannabis, recreational drug use, cannabis use disorder (CUD), drug misuse, Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test - Revised (CUDIT-R), attitudes, perceptions


Cannabis use in the UK could be considered a cultural normality amongst adolescents and young adults with levels of use rising over the last decade. The majority of research focuses on cannabis use among students in the USA with limited studies conducted in Europe; in particular, focus has tended to centre on substance use/misuse among college students. This study assessed student attitudes and perceptions towards cannabis use and associated drug policies in the UK.  In addition, it investigated the prevalence of cannabis use in the student population and identified the number of students that could potentially have cannabis use disorder (CUD), defined using the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test - Revised (CUDIT-R). This research set out to investigate student perceptions towards cannabis use. Using a quantitative method this study utilised an online questionnaire that measured the prevalence of cannabis use, attitudes towards cannabis and whether the drug should be legalised for recreational purposes.  Sixty-three participants were recruited with the target population for the study being students from the Faculty of Health in Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to represent the wider student population. The questionnaire also used the CUDIT-R screening tool to assess cannabis users for possible CUD. Over a quarter (27%) of the sample studied had used cannabis in the last six months, for 47% of those there were indications of possible CUD.  Almost half (49%) of participants were in favour of the drug being made legal for recreational use. Of concern is that 69.8% felt that the current drug policies offer little or no protection to the young and the vulnerable. The use of cannabis in the LJMU community is evident, however, the prevalence of the drug is lower than current stereotypes which suggests that all students partake in heavy and frequent drug use. There are concerns regarding the amount of cannabis users that could potentially have CUD and there are no strategies in place at an institutional or Governmental level to reduce the levels of drug use in this section of society. Student attitudes towards cannabis use tend to mirror that of the general population with nearly half of students supporting the legalisation of recreational cannabis. It is also apparent that the current drug policies in the UK do not protect the young and vulnerable from drug-related harms. Further research is required to better understand cannabis usage in student populations and the perceptions around the drug and associated legislation.