Increased frequency of cannabis use may be placing bisexuals at greater risk of cannabis use disorder

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Young people classified as bisexual not only use cannabis more frequently but also are more likely to use it to cope with mental health issues and for what researchers call experiential "enhancement."

A recent study, titled "The Pot at the End of the Rainbow," is one of the first to examine motives for cannabis use among sexual minorities quantitatively. Led by Washington State University psychologists, researchers analyzed survey data from nearly 4,700 university students from across the country. Of the participants, 23% were classified as bisexual after indicating that they were not exclusively attracted to one gender.

"The group classified as bisexual was more likely to report using cannabis to cope as well as for enhancement, which is a bit surprising," said Kyle Schofield, a WSU Ph.D. candidate in psychology and first author on the study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. "The coping motive was less surprising because we also saw that the group classified as bisexual reported higher levels of all the mental health problems that we looked at in the study."

The bisexual group reported higher levels of cannabis use disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, depression and suicidality than either the groups classified as exclusively "straight" or "gay"-;findings that are in line with previous research.

People who are in sexual minority groups not only face normal life stress but also an additional column of stress that's related to being a sexual minority. For bisexual people, there may be even more different types of stress since they can face discrimination from gay as well as straight communities, and additional stress can lead to negative mental health outcomes."

Kyle Schofield, a WSU Ph.D. candidate in psychology and first author on the study

The authors said the study results could help improve mental health target interventions for bisexual individuals.

For this study, Schofield worked with his advising professor Carrie Cuttler to analyze archival data from an Addictions Research Team survey, which combines participant pools from 10 universities across the U.S.

The researchers focused on survey respondents who were ages 18 to 30. They relied on a question that asked participants to rank their attraction to genders on a scale, grouping those who reported being "mostly heterosexual" and "mostly homosexual" as bisexual along with those who claimed both types of attraction. This yielded 3,483 who were in the "straight" group, another 1,081 in the "bisexual" group, and a small group of 105 individuals who were classified as "gay."

The researchers used the "Marijuana Motives Measure," which is based off one developed for alcohol, to assess five potential reasons for use: enhancement, conformity, expansion, coping and social. While some of the motives, like coping, have negative issues associated with them, enhancement does not, as of yet.

While the study could not give a reason this motive was so strong with the bisexual group, Cuttler speculated that it might have to do with being open to new experiences.

"Enhancement is about expanding one's own awareness, being more open to experience and more creative, so perhaps it all this comes back to openness," said Cuttler, an assistant professor of psychology and senior author on the study.

From this sample, the researchers also found that people in the bisexual group were not only more likely to report using cannabis and using it more frequently but also were more likely to use all three types of cannabis listed in the survey: flower, edibles and concentrates.

Cuttler said this was concerning because concentrates typically contain a higher level of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

The authors acknowledged that the study was limited by the use of sexual attraction data rather than sexual identity but hoped the results would spur further investigations. The authors also noted that they had limited power to detect differences in the group classified as gay given the relatively small size of that group.

"I hope that this research helps instigate future, large-scale studies where people are able to self-identify themselves as gay, bisexual or straight as well as those with large samples of other groups that are less studied, such as transgender and nonbinary individuals," said Cuttler.

Journal reference:

Schofield, K., et al. (2023) Pot at the End of the Rainbow: Cannabis Use Among Sexual Minorities. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.


  1. R Nixon R Nixon United States says:

    You can analyze cannabis all you want, speculate all you want based on far-reaching studies, but I'm here with 40 years of cannabis use to explain the biggest misunderstanding laid on cannabis users. There is ONE and ONLY ONE use when consuming cannabis sativa,  cannabis indica, or hybrids. We use it as a REMEDY baby, pure and simple. What each individual seeks to remedy is highly personable and very different from one person to the next. It's all but absurd to make a list for government approved remedy uses, which vary greatly state to state, then lump all other uses as "recreational". I am a staunch supporter of states rights, so I'll take the good with the bad, but it's illogical that I'm either a felon or honest citizen based on my GPS. However,  do get to laugh hysterically at the huge paradox unfolding that pits legal pot vs outlaw pot. There is no apparent easy solution to the problem, but the result for me is: lower costs on both legal and outlaw cannabis products. The market will decide and gluts will only increase until eventually, pot prices should be back down to what I had to pay in the early 80's in high school: $30 an ounce. Hahaha, some things work out. There is no sense in any higher prices than that which ultimately bog down the economy. Best case scenario ends up down the line with consumers free to grow. One man could supply many others for next to nothing, leaving a sht-ton of disposable income to bolster fragile economy.

  2. Nunya Bizness Nunya Bizness United States says:

    I am 40 years old. My father first made me inhale a joint at the age of 7. I have never been attracted to another male. Never will be. And I am a daily smoker. To read such audacity of a writer speaking about things they know nothing about it asinine at best. Fire this slacker/hack/wannabe journalist

  3. Lorin Flickinger Lorin Flickinger United States says:

    Your so-called research lacks substance,as well as meaning. To infer one's 'sexuality' into Marijuana usage is ridiculous...If one of your researchers happens to be 'bi-sexual' can we then infer that sitting at a cubicle and working on a computer may be linked to 'bi-sexuality tendencies& habits'? I think not. This may be beyond this websites comprehension,but their are Marijuana users that use responsibly and are highly successful,particularly referring to how humanity views one's success or failure based on the size of one's bank account,or financial stance. Marijuana use is relaxing and peaceful for those that gain relaxation and peacefulness from.And the individual that Marijuana use causes paranoia and psychosis? Then that's the indivuals reaction.Nothing more.

  4. Adam Allen Adam Allen United States says:

    This is stereotypical and down right dumb people who are going through changes of gender and sexuality already have coping mechanisms for depression and suicidal thoughts PTSD and anxiety issues without the use of marijuana your studies mean nothing stating marijuana effects these people more than any other they were like that from dealing with hate and rejection before smoking marijuana. Your trying to blame it on something because y'all have nothing better to do

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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