Drugs and Alcohol

Regular use of cannabis

Young people often see cannabis as the least dangerous of the ‘street’ drugs. Some much preferred it to other substances, including alcohol, and described a very casual approach to smoking cannabis. Raphael said he would often have a smoke while walking to the shops and Craig said he might roll a joint while waiting for a bus. Jim commented that he used to smoke cannabis like others smoke cigarettes.

Young people we talked to sometimes described themselves as ‘regular’ or ‘normal’ cannabis users; but the meaning of ‘regular’ use varies a great deal from one young person to another. Some said they’ll have a few puffs on a joint occasionally after dinner with friends, while others use it several times a week.  ’Regular’ use often builds up over time and depends on being able to get hold of cannabis.
The variety of cannabis (weed, skunk and resin) young people smoked was linked to what was available where they lived and what their friends used. Sam initially smoked block (resin) but he and his friends switched to the much stronger skunk when it became available in his local area. He doesn’t have a clear memory of what happened during that time but remembers having been ‘stoned’ all the time which didn’t help with his schooling or relationships at home.

Becoming a regular cannabis user 
For some young people their use of cannabis depends on circumstances like the people they spend time with or having a place to smoke. As a teenager, Michelle smoked cannabis with her best friend and some older male friends. They went to friends’ houses whose parents allowed them to smoke cannabis. 

Moving out of home and going to university, or moving in with friends, allows freedom to experiment. Joe said that he smoked cannabis most regularly when he was 19 and sharing a house with friends. Jen smoked ‘a bit’ of weed during her first year at university because that was what a lot of her friends did but now that she works full-time she doesn’t come across cannabis that often. Lauren drank alcohol and smoked cannabis every weekend with her school friends but not now that she is at university.
Why do people use cannabis regularly? 
Young people stressed the social aspect of smoking cannabis, as something that it is done with friends for fun and relaxation. Peter doesn’t think people should use drugs when they’re on their own, particularly teenagers who are less secure about themselves.

Peter had bad experiences with alcohol and now prefers to smoke weed than drink alcohol, although he wonders whether he could find another way of taking cannabis without tobacco. Peter likes the way that smoking cannabis helps him think about problems.
Comparing cannabis with other drugs 
People who used cannabis regularly were quick to separate cannabis from the other, harder drugs like cocaine or heroin. Stephanie said that she has heard that cannabis can be damaging but she knows many people who use it without it being a problem. Some said they hadn’t heard of people having bad reactions to cannabis.

Sometimes, regular cannabis users experimented with other street drugs like ketamine, cocaine or ecstasy. Jen and Peter for instance, both said they had had a line of cocaine just once. Stephanie said that she never felt the need to try other drugs and, like Jen, was scared of the health consequences of drugs like cocaine. Kim has often been offered cocaine in clubs but wasn’t interested because it’s too addictive and expensive. Heroin was the drug that young people seem to be the most wary about.
Being a ‘heavy’ user of cannabis 
Craig and Jim said that they smoked cannabis ‘like cigarettes’, with Craig smoking two to three ’joints’ or ‘spliffs’ every day. Chloe was ‘high‘ most days from the ages of twelve to sixteen and Michelle told us that she and her school friends would share a spliff at the bus stop on the way to school or even just before going into an exam.
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See also Problems with cannabis use.
 
Last updated: January 2015
Review date: January 2017 

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