Using Deviance Regulation Theory to Target Marijuana Use Intentions Among College Students

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Abstract

Several large epidemiological studies have shown increasing trends on a number of indices of marijuana use among college age samples. This may be due to changing attitudes about marijuana use linked to legalization efforts. Interventions that can target problematic use on a broad scale are lacking. Recent research has shown that deviance regulation theory (DRT) can be used to design effective web-based substance use interventions. DRT relies on the interplay between perceived norms and an appropriately framed message about the given behavior. The current study examines the use of DRT to change marijuana use intentions. Participants (n = 694 college students) completed measures of marijuana use and marijuana use norms. They were then assigned to receive a positively framed message about marijuana abstainers or a negatively framed message about marijuana users. Following the manipulation, participants rated intentions to use marijuana over the next three months. Consistent with DRT, there was an interaction between message frame and marijuana use norms. The positive frame attenuated the association between marijuana use norms and use intentions. A negative frame resulted in the lowest levels of use intentions among those with low use norms. Results suggest that DRT may be used to modify use intentions in college students, a population that has shown increasing rates of use.

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