- Persistence and desistance in heavy cannabis use: the role of identity, agency, and life events
- Journal of Youth Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 18 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Law (FdR)
Faculty of Medicine (AMC-UvA)
- Bonger Institute of Criminology (ARILS)
Many cannabis users ‘mature out’ of their drug use, and factors of cannabis use cessation have been identified. However, very little in-depth knowledge is available about the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. Criminological studies have gained interesting insights in desistance from crime, yet these perspectives are rarely used in drug research. This qualitative, three-year longitudinal study explored the processes involved in desistance from frequent cannabis use for young adults. Using a narrative approach, desisters (frequent users who successfully quit their cannabis use) and persisters (frequent users with a persistent desire and unsuccessful attempts to quit) were compared. In the course of the study, desisters mainly exhibited increasing agency and goal setting, established strategies to achieve these goals, and could envision another self. Desistance was generally induced by life events that became turning points. Persisters experienced largely similar events, but lacked goals and strategies and held external factors responsible for their life course and failed quit attempts. Identity change is at the core of desistance from frequent cannabis use, and the meaning-giving to life events and experiences is essential. Agency is a necessary ingredient for desistance, develops over time and through action, and leads to a new drug-free identity with desistance in turn increasing agency.
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