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The experience of drug loss among college students in treatment for cannabis abuse




Miller, Mackenzie, author
Matheson, Jenn, advisor
Aberle, Jen, committee member
Miller, Lisa, committee member

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Grief-related symptoms among people in recovery from drug abuse have been acknowledged in the substance abuse literature. However, there is no existing theory to explain the phenomenon of grief reactions to discontinued drug use. In an attempt to contribute to the developing Drug Loss Theory (Matheson, in press), this mixed methods study was designed to investigate grief-related symptoms among individuals who have discontinued the use of cannabis. Worden's Task Model of Grief and Attachment Theory were used as the theoretical frameworks to guide this in-depth study of six college students who have discontinued the use of cannabis. The conceptual focus of the study was to explore the nature of the relationship between participants and cannabis, and to understand participants' descriptions and definitions of drug loss. The researchers administered the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test (CUDIT) which revealed a moderate level of dependence among the six participants. Total scores on the Core Bereavement Items (CBI) scale ranged from 20-40 (out of a 51 points), with an average score of 31.7, indicating a medium level of bereavement. Researchers collected qualitative data through semi-structured interviews in order to explore the awareness and experience of five college students with a cannabis use disorder, and one college student with a polysubstance use disorder. I discuss the themes that emerged and integrate those with the literature including attachment theory and Worden's Tasks of Grief to compare and contrast the loss experience of these cannabis users to other loss experiences such as death of a loved one.


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drug Loss
grief and loss
substance abuse treatment


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