Cannabis Use, Impact and Support - Students Attending Alternative Provision

  • Joseph Humphreys

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Regular adolescent cannabis use (CU) has a variety of negative effects on young people's mental health and educational outcomes. Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug by adolescents with higher levels of use in alternative provision (AP) compared to mainstream schools. CU motives predict frequency of adolescent CU and negative consequences associated with use. Motive identification is therefore important to support adolescents to manage their CU. The views of young people should also inform interventions and reflects recommended practice connected to effective support. However, views of AP students in relation to their motives to use cannabis, the impact of cannabis on mental health and education, and effective CU support are seldom profiled in research. A systematic literature review explored the relationship between adolescent CU motives and frequency of use and negative consequences. An empirical paper investigated the views of AP students in relation to CU and its impact on mental health and education. The paper also focused on what AP students perceive to be effective in supporting CU. The systematic literature review (SLR) revealed that CU motives are relevant to understanding adolescent CU frequency and negative consequences. Furthermore, motives not included previously in long-established motivational models may provide an improved understanding of adolescent CU and negative consequences. In line with the SLR findings, enhancement and coping motives were significant; conformity motives were less significant than expected. Cannabis was perceived to negatively affect memory, but was not perceived to impact concentration or to affect school attendance. The support of trusted adults was valued to manage CU. Findings reflect previous research into adolescent CU motives, and the positive impact of school connectedness on student CU. Recommendations include early intervention for high-risk youth based on accurate identification of CU motives. Staff should focus on building trusting relationships with students as a platform to support the management of adolescent CU. This should be done in concert with measures that can alleviate the community deficits often experienced by AP students. Having explored evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence, paper three discusses the implications for the research on policy and practice. It also includes a strategy for promoting and evaluating the dissemination and impact of the research.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCatharine Atkinson (Supervisor) & Catherine Kelly (Supervisor)

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