Twenty-five resourceful former or occasional cannabis users participated in a recent Norwegian study. (Photo: Colourbox)

Will not stop using cannabis

Former users never completely let go of the good feelings they associate with cannabis. It makes them feel young, free and independent.

“I’ve interviewed cannabis users who have not been involved in treatment for drug abuse,” says Silje Louise Dahl.

“And there are plenty in this category,” she adds.

In her work on a doctorate she looked at former regular cannabis users who are integrated in society and have cut down or quit on their own.

She found that the participants in her study connected their use of hashish and marihuana with youth, freedom and independence. It was a time when they shunned a standard, bourgeois “A-4” lifestyle.

Silje Louise Dahl is a PhD scholar at the Department of Sociology and Political Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU. (Private photo)

So the cannabis was part of their identity ― not just a drug.

Highly educated

Dahl has interviewed 25 young adults ― 18 men and 7 women. Nineteen out of 25 had higher educations, like their parents.

All used cannabis for several years before cutting down or quitting. But even if they had completely quit they were not adversely disposed to starting again. This gave them a self-image linked to their younger days.

Still young and free

A major reason why many had cut down was that being a stoner didn’t seem right anymore. Their adult lives made demands on them and cannabis use had to be discarded for more important things.

Some were becoming parents or had obtained demanding careers. Also, many of the men had paired up with women who didn’t approve of them smoking so much weed.

“After cutting down, most of those in the study went on thinking of cannabis as something positive which provided relaxation. It was something that meant they were still youthful and open to new experiences ― independent and capable of making untraditional choices.”

Dahl says that to continue having such perceptions of themselves, some used cannabis occasionally, while others simply didn’t rule out using it again in the future.

In addition, this notion of identity linked to the cannabis made it hard to say to others that they planned to quit.

No wish to criticise

The participants viewed the use of cannabis as a harmless and pleasant substance. They felt that most people could use it in a controlled way.

Thus, wanting to quit could be misconstrued as a criticism of the drug in general and others’ use of it.

“This can make it hard to talk about quitting and actually stop,” says Dahl.

Prevention strategies

Silje Louise Dahl thinks that those who work toward prevention of drug abuse, or are involved in treatment of users, need to understand how such notions link users to the drug.

She adds that it might have been easier for the participants in her study to reduce their use than it could be for many others:

“Having other things in your life that you consider valuable, ambitions and wishes for the future, contribute toward making the use of drugs less significant and easier to control. This applies even when the symbolic aspects of the drug are still deemed vital to an individual’s identity.”


Read the Norwegian version of this article at

Translated by: Glenn Ostling

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