Dianova held a series of webinars on how to improve and adapt programmes for the prevention and treatment of problematic cannabis use
By Lucía Goberna – The legal status of cannabis is currently high on the agenda of international organizations. However, this aspect should not dominate the discussions. There are other issues that should be taken into consideration, and which require action from government authorities and other stakeholders involved in the design and implementation of drugs policies. We should in particular face an urgent need: how to adapt and improve services dedicated to the prevention and treatment of cannabis use disorders.
The most used drug globally
Cannabis is by far the most used illegal drug globally. According to data from the World Drug Report 2020, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an estimated 192 million people used cannabis in 2018, which represent 3.9% of the population aged between 15 and 64 years. The second drugs most used are opioids with 58 million people.
Treatment demands for problematic cannabis use on the rise
While cannabis use per se is not necessarily a problem, treatment data show that the level of demand for treatment of cannabis problematic use is on the rise (the number of people seeking help).
As a primary drug of concern in drug treatment, cannabis has significantly increased over the last fifteen years in most regions. The average age of first admission for people with problem drug use is 26 years.
Some of the factors which could affect the number of people in treatment for cannabis use disorders include increase of the number of people needing treatment; changes in the treatment referral system; changes in the awareness of potential problems associated with problematic cannabis use; and in the availability and access to treatment.
In light of this, how to proceed?
As a provider of addiction treatment services and as an organization involved in the monitoring and follow-up of international drug policies, Dianova conducted a Study on the Regulation and Legalization of the Therapeutic and Recreational Uses of Cannabis and their Addiction, Social and Health-Related Risks which served as a basis to update Dianova’s position paper on substance use disorders and cannabis policies.
In addition, Dianova organized a series of webinars with a number of addiction professionals and other stakeholders on how to improve the services dedicated to preventing and treating problematic cannabis use.
The very first webinar was held with some of the members of the Dianova network and the second one with members of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities (EFTC). Lastly, a third one is scheduled to be held as a parallel event to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, on April 15, 2021 (see event’s flyer).
Conversation with EFTC members
On 17 March 2021, the webinar with EFTC members gathered 48 participants from various regions of Europe, most of whom belong to the addiction treatment fields. When asked what they considered to be the main barriers to accessing cannabis-oriented programmes, the answers varied from failing to offer sufficiently attractive or specific services, to a lack of funding opportunities.
Very diverse topics were discussed, including the links between cannabis and other substances (tobacco and other illegal drugs), risk behaviors (online gaming, gambling, etc.), efficient prevention models and good practices of organizations with extensive work experience with problematic cannabis use, etc. The participants also highlighted how risk perceptions are likely to vary depending on age groups, and they insisted on the need to reinforce dedicated services, especially for the adult population.
Jesús Antonio Molina Fernández, Associate Professor at the Complutense University in Madrid, presented Dianova’s study on cannabis regulation and moderated the discussion. On behalf of Dianova, we would like to thank him for his dedication.
There were many issues to address and the discussion was lively, but one thing that emerged was a will to broaden this discussion around treatment services for cannabis problematic use so that we can better adapt to today’s reality with more effective programmes.
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Video of the event