PhD graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson on Abstaining from Cannabis Use

June 1, 2018 by Nico Golinski

PhD graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson, in collaboration with Andrew Hathaway (University of Guleph), Amir Mostaghim (University of Guelph), and Geraint Osborne (University of Alberta), published an article in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. The article explores the attitudes of Canadian undergraduate students who choose not to use cannabis. The authors find that these students still maintain ideas about drug use as deviant behavior and connect it to cultural ideals surrounding gender and other social statuses.

Kat Kolar obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2018. Her dissertation is titled Differentiating the Drug Normalization Framework: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Substance Use among Undergraduate Students in Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at UBC researching the social integration of substance use and health inequities impacting people who use illicit drugs. Patricia Erickson is a retired senior scientist at CAMH and a Professor (status-only) in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Crime and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include illicit drug use and drug policy; youth, violence, mental health and addictions.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through ResearchGate here.

Hathaway, Andrew D., Amir Mostaghim, Patricia G. Erickson, Kat Kolar, and Geraint Osborne. 2018. "'It's Really No Big Deal: The Role of Social Supply Networks in Normalizing Use of Cannabis by Students at Canadian Universities." Deviant Behavior.

Aims: To critically investigate the extent of normalisation of the use of cannabis by undergraduate students. To examine the extent of peer accommodation, this paper focuses on attitudes of students who abstain. It sheds light on social meanings of the practice by exploring non-users’ reasons for abstaining in addition to their attitudes, perceptions and experiences of use among their peers.

Methods: Respondents were recruited to participate in interviews through an online survey of undergraduate students in social science classes at three Canadian universities.

Findings: Peer accommodation of the use of cannabis requires that users exercise due caution and discretion and be respectful of the choices of non-users not to use. Non-users’ attitudes, however, still reflect longstanding cultural assumptions about drug use as a deviant behaviour. Attitudes towards the use of cannabis reflect norms and expectations about gender among other culturally constructed social statuses and roles.

Conclusions: Future research should continue to investigate nuances of the differentiated normalisation process. A better understanding of the cultural transformation of cannabis, and other drugs in common use by youth, requires more exploration of the emerging social context and attitudes of users and non-users of the drug.

Read the full article through ResearchGate here.