Marijuana Use Among Athletes

Marijuana Use Among Athletes

Marijuana use is a habit that may be seen as harmless by some individuals, but research is increasingly connecting its use to psychotic episodes and other possible negative consequences. Marijuana use may be thought of as an introduction to more serious drugs, according to some studies.

As a result of the risks thought to be associated with marijuana use, there has been extensive research to try and discover the causes of initiation of use. In a recent study from Rutgers University, researchers tried to identify the reasons behind marijuana use among student athletes.

Why Athletes Use Marijuana

Jennifer F. Buckman, Ph.D., of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, and colleagues found that college athletes are less likely than their peers to smoke marijuana. Moreover, when they do, they have different reasons for using it. Previous studies have shown that athletes use marijuana less than their non-athletic peers, but this study is the first to compare the reasons for use.

The study published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs shows that there are still many athletes using marijuana. Buckman and colleagues wanted to examine the reasons behind athletes’ use of marijuana because the effects of the drug could impact athletic performance.

The researchers recruited 392 college athletes and 504 non-athletes to participate in a survey about marijuana use. About one-third of the male athletes surveyed indicated that they had used marijuana in the past year, while about half of non-athletes used marijuana. Among females, 25 percent of athletes and 48 percent of non-athletes used marijuana.

The risk factors for marijuana use were constant across athletes and non-athletes, with users generally being white, a cigarette smoker, and having an exaggerated perception of how many of their peers use marijuana. However, there were some differences among athletes and non-athletes as well:

  • Athletes were more likely to use marijuana because they enjoyed its effects.
  • Athletes were less likely to use marijuana as a way to deal with stress, indicating that athletes tend to use marijuana recreationally, rather than as a response to problems.

There was one group of athletes that did use marijuana as a way of dealing with stress. Male athletes who continued to use the drug during their competitive season reported more problems with anxiety than those athletes that did not use marijuana during the season.

The study was developed as a step in the direction of understanding the motivation for marijuana use among athletes in order to develop educational and preventive materials to help reduce drug use among this group.


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