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Prevalence of problematic cannabis use in Canada: Cross-sectional findings from the 2013 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey

Cesar Leos-Toro, Vicki Rynard, David Hammond


OBJECTIVES: Cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance in Canada. There exist a variety of tools to measure problematic characteristics of cannabis use; however, there is no consensus on the operational definition of “problematic use”. The current study sought to estimate the prevalence of problematic cannabis use in Canada, in terms of the kinds of problems Canadians report due to their cannabis use, the levels of harm associated with cannabis consumption, and potential differences among socio-demographic groups.

METHODS: Cross-sectional, nationally representative data for Canadians were obtained from the publicly available Statistics Canada’s 2013 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS) (n = 13 635). Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine subgroup differences in patterns of cannabis use and problematic outcomes defined by the World Health Organization’s Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) tool embedded in CTADS.

RESULTS: The findings indicate that, while 1 in 10 Canadians reported using cannabis in the past 3 months, only 2% of the sample of Canadians who reported using cannabis in the past 3 months were characterized as having a “high risk” of severe health or other problems. Canadian male respondents were more likely to report social problems than females and to be categorized as high risk. Youth and young adults between the ages of 15 and 29 consistently reported a greater prevalence of problems associated with their cannabis consumption than their older counterparts.

CONCLUSION: A very small proportion of Canadians report using cannabis to a degree that is problematic. Approximately one in two young people reported using cannabis at some point in their lives, of concern given the negative health outcomes of early cannabis use. This study highlights the need for the development of more sensitive instruments to detect problematic cannabis use.


Cannabis; marijuana; ASSIST; problematic use; dependence; men’s health; youth; surveillance

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