Brief therapy for teens who smoke cannabis

Psychologists have been debating how helpful brief interventions are in helping younr people who smoke cannabis.

Denise Walker, co-director of the University of Washington's Innovative Programs Research Group, has argued that a quick chat with an older person can result in a 20 per cent dip in cannabis use among teenagers.

Her study, which appeared in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviours, looked at how a two-session, friendly approach can encourage youngsters to come off the drug.

She said: "Adolescence is a big developmental period for learning adult roles. Smoking cannabis regularly can impede development and school performance and it sets kids up for other risky behaviours."

Denise Walker added the majority of individuals who require assistance are not being given access to it, while many more are unaware that they need help.

The researchers carried out the pilot by heading to a number of high school classrooms and giving short presentations on the myths and facts about cannabis use.

But Professor Richard Hammersley from Glasgow Caledonian University, a Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Brief interventions like this can encourage people to reduce their use of alcohol or drugs and tend to be inexpensive. 

"However, a recent review suggested that such interventions were not effective for people with serious problems of dependence and this probably applies here. I am also concerned that the main outcome measure was self-reported marijuana use and it is well-known that what people report is easily affected by placebo-type effects. 

"So, after the intervention some regular marijuana users reported that they used less. To be clear that this is a worthwhile outcome it would be necessary to show that this led to reduced drug problems in the future, which would require a longer follow up with less subjective measures of outcome."