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Sociodemographic differences and experienced effects of young adults who use cannabis mainly for self-medication versus recreationally in Finland

Sociodemographic differences and experienced effects of young adults who use cannabis mainly for self-medication versus recreationally in Finland

Spearheaded by Aleksi Hupli, this study employed a blend of quantitative and qualitative methodologies to delve into cannabis consumption patterns among young adults in Finland, distinguishing between recreational and medicinal motivations. This comprehensive analysis provides valuable insights into the underlying drivers of cannabis use, particularly the distinction between self-medication and recreational purposes. Its findings emerge at a crucial juncture, coinciding with the burgeoning global debate surrounding cannabis legalization and its potential ramifications for public health and social policy.

Background and Motivation for the Study

Cannabis use is a complex phenomenon with varying motivations and outcomes. This study was motivated by the need to understand the differences in cannabis use patterns, particularly focusing on the reasons young adults in Finland choose to use cannabis, whether for self-medication or recreational enjoyment. Understanding these patterns is crucial for developing effective public health strategies and policies.


The researchers employed a comprehensive survey, targeting a diverse group of young adults across Finland. The survey included questions about demographic characteristics, frequency and quantity of cannabis use, and the effects experienced by the users. The study’s robust methodological framework ensured the collection of reliable and generalizable data.

Key Findings:

  1. Sociodemographic Differences:

    • The study found significant differences in the sociodemographic profiles of self-medication and recreational users. For instance, self-medication users were often older and more likely to live in smaller cities or rural areas. In contrast, recreational users were typically younger and lived in larger urban areas.
  2. Motivations for Use:

    • Self-medication users predominantly reported using cannabis to alleviate physical and mental health symptoms, including chronic pain and anxiety. Recreational users, on the other hand, primarily sought social bonding and pleasure.
  3. Experienced Effects:

    • The study also highlighted the range of effects experienced by cannabis users. Self-medication users reported positive effects like pain relief and mood improvement, whereas recreational users frequently cited enhanced social experiences and relaxation.

Implications for Policy and Public Health

The findings of this study have significant implications for public health policies and cannabis regulation. The clear distinction between self-medication and recreational use patterns can inform targeted harm reduction strategies and educational campaigns. It also underscores the need for nuanced policy approaches that consider the diverse motivations and outcomes of cannabis use.

Future Directions

The study suggests the need for further research into the long-term effects of cannabis use, particularly in the context of self-medication. There is also a call for more studies to understand the societal and health system impacts of cannabis use in different demographic groups.


This in-depth study provides valuable insights into the complex landscape of cannabis use among young adults in Finland. By differentiating between self-medication and recreational use, it contributes significantly to the ongoing discussion about cannabis regulation and its impact on society. As the debate on cannabis legalization continues globally, this research offers essential data for policymakers and health professionals aiming to address the challenges and opportunities posed by cannabis use.

Authors: Aleksi Hupli, Ali Unlu, Jussi Jylkkä, Atte Oksanen

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