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Effects of cannabis expectancies upon current anxiety and depressive symptoms among women with post-traumatic stress disorder

Jocelyn Mueller
University of Central Florida

Co-Authors: Karina Villalba1, Jamia Sapp1, Robert Cook2, Christa Cook1, Dinender Singla1, Amie Newins1, Jennifer Attonito3
1University of Central Florida, 2University of Florida, 3Florida Atlantic University

Background: This study sought to identify whether expectancies regarding the effects of cannabis to suppress anxiety and depression mediate the connection between historical cannabis use and current reported levels of anxiety and depression among women with and without PTSD.

Methods: Data was analyzed from 300 women who reported via online survey any historical use of cannabis and scored ≥1 on the PTSD-4 scale. Dependent variables were current levels of anxiety and depression. Mediating variables were positive versus negative cannabis expectancies. T-tests assessed whether variables differed between PTSD-positive and -negative women. Ordinary least squares (OLS) mediation models tested cannabis expectancies for anxiety and depression as a mediator between historical cannabis use (dichotomized at <3 years and 3+ years of use) and current anxiety and depression levels among PTSD-positive women.

Results: Of participants, 57% screened positive for PTSD. Differences were observed in anxiety (p = 0.001) and depression (p = 0.001) levels between positive and negative PTSD groups; no sociodemographic differences existed between groups. Participants who used cannabis for 3+ years had higher positive cannabis expectancies and lower levels of current anxiety. The mediation model for depression was significant (indirect effect = 0.35, SE = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.070 to 0.709) among PTSD-positive women. The indirect effect of positive cannabis use expectancies in the anxiety model was significant (indirect effect = 0.26, SE = 0.13, 95% CI = 0.028 to 0.543) among PTSD-positive women. The depression model was partially mediated while the anxiety model was fully mediated.

Conclusion: Findings show that positive cannabis expectancies contributed to the relationship between historical cannabis use and current lower levels of depression and anxiety, suggesting a psychological component to the effects of cannabis on the mental health of women with PTSD.