Weed consumption in communities with larger psychological well being dangers on the onset of COVID-19

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US researchers checked location data from visitors to 3,335 legal cannabis retail pharmacies.

Article author:

Angela Stelmakowich

Release date:

February 24, 2021 • • 6 hours ago • • 3 minutes read The negative impact of the ongoing pandemic could lead people at increased risk of mental health problems to “use substances to manage stressors”. /. Photo by kieferpix / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in increased legal cannabis use in communities at risk for mental health problems. This indicates a review of anonymized location data in the United States

Nathaniel Ashby, Ph.D., a researcher at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, considered location data from the devices of visitors to 3,335 retail cannabis locations – both medical and recreational – for each day from December 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020.

As the pandemic started, communities that reported greater average numbers of mentally unhealthy days (aMUDs) showed more visits to cannabis retailers, Ashby found in the study published online in the Journal of Addictive Diseases. Respondents were asked to think about their mental health – including stress, depression, and problems with emotions – and how many days their mental health was not good in the past 30 years.

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The anonymized location data “provided a count of the number of visitors” to the retail locations. These visitor numbers were then merged with the average number of aMUDs reported in the Federal Information Processing Standard County the retailer was located in, estimates of the county’s population and the poverty rate, the study said.

The results are worrying as the negative impact of the ongoing pandemic could lead people at increased risk of mental health problems to “use substances to manage stressors,” suggests Ashby.

“Steps to maintain overall societal health (e.g., social distancing and order at home) may have a disproportionately negative impact on vulnerable populations, which may be felt long after the COVID-19 threat has subsided,” said the Study continues.

A Canadian study published last December showed that cannabis use in the general population remained stable over the past May and June.

Those most likely to report a higher chance of increased usage were 18 to 29 years old and somewhat concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the person’s finances. /. Photo by ightFieldStudios / iStock / Getty Images Plus

But for those who regularly consumed weeds, around half their consumption increased compared to pre-pandemic, and that increase generally continued over three survey periods over the course of May and June. Those most likely to report a higher chance of increased usage were 18 to 29 years old, had less than a college or university education, and were somewhat concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the person’s finances.

The increase suggests that “measures to limit increased cannabis use, policies to combat the harm caused by cannabis and continued monitoring of cannabis use during and after the pandemic are needed,” the study said.

Information released by New Frontier Data last winter shows that 42 percent of cannabis users currently surveyed in the US increased their overall use during the pandemic. 25 percent of those surveyed stated a small increase, 18 percent a large increase 42 reported constant use and 16 percent stated that use had decreased.

Only some of the medical cannabis patients switched from smoking to non-smoking forms of weed in the course of COVID-19. /. Photo by megaflopp / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A study from the United States published last September found that more than half of medicinal cannabis users who consume buds for at least one pre-existing condition said they feared COVID-19 and passed the virus on to someone else. Still, only some of the patients switched from smoking to non-smoking forms of weed in the course of COVID-19.

In the most recent study, Ashby suggests that the results “highlight the value that anonymized location data can provide policy makers and practitioners in uncovering community-level trends when faced with an increasingly uncertain landscape.”

However, he admits it’s important to note that visitor data used makes up only about 10 percent of all mobile devices in the United States. It is therefore “unclear how well the current pattern of findings can be transferred to the larger population. ”

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