Adolescents are thought to be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of cannabis than adults. Adolescents are reliably at a greater risk of developing cannabis use disorder (CUD) than adults. Cannabis addiction is the leading cause of <18-year-olds seeking drug treatment in the UK (>75% of cases). However, the mechanisms underpinning this greater risk of CUD and the most effective ways to treat adolescent CUD are unknown.
Study 1 (Year 1): Meta-analysis. Empirically quantify: (1) the augmented risk to CUD in adolescence; (2) predictors of adolescent CUD development.
Study 2 (Year 1 & 2): Longitudinal data analysis of existing MRC-funded ‘CannTeen’ data set (n=274), using multilevel modelling. Test predictors of CUD identified in meta-analysis, and examine fMRI-derived, urinary cannabinoid, epigenetic, and cognitive predictors of adolescent CUD. See methods (video): https://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychopharmacology/trials/cannteen
Study 3 (Years 2 & 3): A cannabis withdrawal and app-aided quit attempt study in daily adolescent and adult cannabis users. Participants randomised to a quit-weed app or control app; outcomes measured by ecological momentary assessment. Test: (1) if adolescents differ from adults in their responses to THC abstinence; (2) if the quit-weed app is effective; (3) predictors of quit success.
Collaborate with addiction clinicians in SLaM to ensure clinical validity.
Work with a PPI group made up of adolescents who use cannabis.
Inform drug education and harm reduction strategies.
Techniques: meta-analysis, longitudinal data analysis, multilevel modelling, fMRI, epigenetics, randomised controlled trial, ecological momentary assessment, apps
Collaborators: Professor Ted Barker (3rd supervisor, adolescent development expert), Dr Ed Chesney (psychiatrist with cannabis expertise), Dr Matt Wall (fMRI expert)