Exploring the risk factors and consequences of cannabis use in adolescence using population-based data: the "CANNARISK" study

Over the past decade there has been an increase in the number of adolescents using cannabis worldwide. This is concerning because cannabis is increasing in strength with more serious long term effects on health such as psychosis and depression. The adverse effects of using cannabis are particularly pronounced in those who start to use cannabis in adolescence. However despite the evidence for harmful effects, young people are less likely likely to view cannabis as a harmful substance.
In this project we aim to investigate two key issues in relation to cannabis use in youth. Firstly we will examine what factors increase the chances of a young person beginning to use cannabis. We will also examine what factors influence a young person not to use cannabis. Secondly we will investigate what effect early use of cannabis has on the structure of the brain and on cognition.

Risk and protective factors for cannabis use will be investigated in the Growing Up in Ireland study of 8,000 young people studied from age 9 to age 20 and the Planet Youth study which is a large survey of school children in schools in the West, East and North East of Ireland. We will investigate effects of cannabis on brain structure and cognition using two studies which have collected brain scans and tests of cognitive function both before and after cannabis use.

A notable feature of this study will be the involvement of a Public and Patient Advisory Group and a Youth Consultation Group from the earliest stages of this project. This group will include young people with lived experience of cannabis use and youth workers and those involved in the policy and practice of drug prevention.

The results of this project will inform policy and preventive programmes for cannabis use in young people.

Award Date
01 July 2022
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Mary Cannon
Host Institution
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Investigator Led Projects