Cannabis use can result in, or exacerbate, a range of physical and mental health, social and economic problems. Problems are more likely to develop if use begins at a young age and develops into regular and long-term use. The primary objectives for health and social responses to address cannabis use and associated problems should therefore include:
- preventing use, or delaying its onset from adolescence until young adulthood;
- preventing the escalation of cannabis use from occasional to regular use;
- reducing harmful modes of use; and
- providing interventions, including treatment, for people whose cannabis use has become problematic
- Universal prevention is widespread but not always evidence-based. Selective prevention approaches are used in some European countries, most commonly with young offenders or with youth in care institutions, but little is known about their effectiveness. Indicated prevention approaches and brief interventions do not appear to be widely used.
- Many EU countries offer treatment for people with cannabis problems within generic drug treatment programmes, and cannabis-specific treatment is available in half of the countries. Most treatment is provided in community or outpatient settings and increasingly online.
Summary of the available evidence
Implications for policy and practice
- Core responses in this area include general prevention approaches aimed at discouraging use or delaying onset, brief interventions for those with minor problems and formal treatment for those with more serious problems.
- More attention should be paid to harm reduction approaches to cannabis use, particularly with respect to the patterns of use and co-use with tobacco.
- Greater use of e-health approaches.
- The new regulatory models for cannabis that are emerging globally can provide valuable information on the pros and cons of different options for regulation and their likely impact on responses to cannabis problems.
- There is still a need to develop a better understanding of the nature of cannabis-related disorders and what constitutes the most effective and appropriate treatment options for different clients.
- A better understanding is needed of the types of treatment being received by the increasing numbers of people entering treatment for cannabis use in Europe, in order to ensure that provision is appropriate and efficient.