Differences in cannabis use and opinions on drug policy between generations

Thursday, 24 November, 2022 - 16:50 to 18:20
Central square 2 (C2)


The paper compares the prevalence of cannabis use, attitudes towards cannabis and opinions on drug policy in ten-year age cohorts born between 1950 and 1999. Theoretically, the article discusses the concept of generations as an analytical tool for the interpretation of trends in cannabis use and opinions.

The analysis is based on a National Drug Survey conducted in Finland in 2018. The 2018 study was a random sample population survey (N=7,000) in the Finnish population aged 15– 69 years. The youngest age groups (15–39 years) were oversampled. The Åland Islands, the institutionalized population and people with no permanent address were excluded from the study. The data were collected by Statistics Finland by means of a self-administered anonymous online/postal questionnaire. A total of 3,229 persons took part in the survey, giving a response rate of 46%. The data was analysed using SAS Enterprise Guide 7.1 software.

The results show that the lifetime prevalence of cannabis increases almost exponentially when moving from those born in the 1950s (8%) to those born in the 1960s (14%), the 1970s (26%) and the 1980s (42%). In the youngest generation born in the 1990s, the prevalence was 39%. That figure may still rise as the cohort ages, but it is unlikely that the exponential growth trend will continue. The use of cannabis during the previous year, experiences with other drugs, and familiarity with crypto markets were also more prevalent in the two youngest generations. Consequently, attitudes towards drugs and drug policy were more lenient in younger generations.

The generational differences echo the flows of youth culture and market conditions in the years of the respondents’ youth. Results question the success of the restrictive Finnish drug policy, particularly in its main objective to prevent young people from experimenting with drugs.




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