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,” said Schofield. “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.”
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.
Reference: “Pot at the End of the Rainbow: Cannabis Use Among Sexual Minorities” by Kyle Schofield, Carrie Cuttler, Bradley T. Conner, Mark A. Prince, Addictions Research Team (ART) Matthew R. Pearson, Adrian J. Bravo, Craig A. Field, Vivian Gonzalez, James M. Henson, Jon M. Houck, Kevin M. King, Benjamin O. Ladd, Kevin S. Montes and Maria M. Wong, 3 January 2023, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
This is science? This is somehow newsworthy? Who would even come up with this type of research? Is it important? Nope.
And to claim 23 percent of college students are bisexual is 100 percent ludicrous.
Something is amiss at scitechdaily.
“Of the participants, 23% were classified as bisexual …”
That is significantly higher than previous estimates I have read. That should be a red flag that there is a potential selection or evaluation bias on which the study is based.
Reply to both comments about sample bias and unexpected percentages: the investigators were LOOKING for sexual minorities as a sample, not a general population of college students. The investigator got what was wanted, a large sample of sexual MINORITIES to be investigated and a number of the sexual majority for a control. No red flag or sample bias that I can detect. I would not think it strange for a cancer study to have 50% of the sample with cancer, though in a general population, only a very small percentage would have cancer. This study is no different since it is NOT focused on the question of what percentage are sexual minorities, only that they are well represented in the sample looking at sexual minority response to the specific drug being investigated.
You raise some interesting points. However, I don’t think that all of them are well supported by this article or the linked article. The authors noted, “… they had limited power to detect differences in the group classified as gay given the relatively small size of that group.
You stated, “…, the investigators were LOOKING for sexual minorities as a sample, not a general population of college students.” However, the original article states, “Data analyses were performed on archival survey data collected from 10 undergraduate psychology subject pools across the United States (N=4,669) as a part of Project ART ….” The 10 subject pools apparently were pre-selected for addiction and and truncated to an age range of 18-30. Further, they used all cohorts even though the gay group was under-sampled for statistical significance and the hetero’ group was weighted twice as heavily as the group they were most interested in. It might have been good protocol to randomly sub-sample the larger hetero’ pool so that the sizes were more directly comparable. It is clear that the sampling did not represent a cross-section of the population, even for the specified age group. It is difficult to say whether those who self-selected for the addiction study might have skewed the results, but it certainly did not meet the requirements of random sampling, upon which all statistical methods are based.
The “sexual orientation” was essentially a 1-5 ranking. Yet, there is no mention as to whether or not statistical correlation appropriate for rank correlations (e.g. Spearman) was used, or if they used the more common Pearson correlation. The cannabis use was self-reported, which is all too well known to be unreliable in things like calorie counting or frequency or intensity of exercising.
In summary, as preliminary observations, it has some interest. However, I don’t think that one should place too much trust in the conclusions and it is something that should be replicated with a more rigorous sampling and measuring protocol.
This study does not explain the vast speculation about only the negative aspects bisexual life experience based solely on cannabis usage, or why the higher number of bisexuals in the study who use it justifies ignoring whether gay or straight people are using the marijuana for the same reasons.
It seems to me this is just another one of those silly little “intersectional feminism” studies, in which the authors are experts in neither “marijuana usage” nor “sexual orientation”, much less the intersection of the two, yet they start with a conclusion they want to see and magically publish a study that arrives at that conclusion.
If bisexual people have a different set of life stressors, the study should be about that. Not about speculating why they use cannabis. Did the study even ask the bisexual participants “why” they used cannabis? Or the gay or straight participants? I think this would have been a much more direct and efficient method to understanding their usage than speculating based on their sexual orientation. Maybe, just maybe, they ALL use cannabis for similar reasons.
Sure, a sexual orientation may receive certain social prejudices, but whether one has “more” stressors than another is incidental to whether treatment is available or whether the treatment needs to be specialized in some cases. But this is true for all humans — any group sharing similar qualities potentially face prejudice from other groups who do not have those qualities.
Humans do far better when they already have what they need to prevent stress or to cope, not by being seen as victims of their sexual orientation. I learned nothing about cannabis itself in this study by “Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research”.