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Engaging LGBTQ+ Young Adult Cannabis Consumers in Treatment Development: Lessons Learned in Understanding Needs

MAY 19, 2023

Cara Struble, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, NIDA T-32 Science of Co-Occurring Disorders
Center for Technology and Behavioral Health
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College

About the Presentation: Data from the U.S. revealed increases in the prevalence of individuals who endorse sexual and gender minority (SGM) identities, particularly among young people. Health disparities among SGM individuals are well-documented including elevated rates of depressed mood, generalized anxiety, substance use, and co-occurring disorders compared to cisgender heterosexual counterparts. Recent increases in anxiety and depression among SGM youth have been reported. In parallel, frequent cannabis consumption among emerging adults is on the rise and mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety are common among SGM cannabis consumers. A well-supported conceptual framework for understanding disparities among SGM individuals is the Minority Stress Theory (MST). MST posits that SGM individuals face excess chronic stressors (e.g., victimization, stigma, concealment) that contribute to disparate mental health outcomes. Cannabis may be used in attempt to cope with mental health symptoms. Despite elevated rates of health problems, the availability of evidence-based interventions tailored for SGM individuals is extremely limited. Researchers point to a growing unmet treatment need targeting cannabis-related problems (e.g., Cannabis Use Disorder) of which, no tailored interventions for SGM populations exist. The presentation will discuss online recruitment considerations to engage SGM young adult cannabis consumers in research to develop an efficacious mobile health (mHealth) intervention for cannabis and co-occurring internalizing problems. The presentation will include rates of co-occurring cannabis use and problems, depression, and anxiety within samples of 18-25-year-olds who have completed online surveys aimed to understand relationships between cannabis, mental health, and minority stressors. Preliminary data exploring these relationships will be presented. Subgroup analyses will highlight potential heterogeneity among respondents with diverse SGM identities. This work will contribute to efforts to develop an mHealth prototype utilizing community-engaged approaches to test feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy in a small randomized clinical trial.

About the Presenter:  Dr. Cara A. Struble is a postdoctoral fellow in the NIDA-funded T32 Science of Co-Occurring Disorders training program at the Geisel School of Medicine’s Center for Technology and Behavioral Health. Dr. Struble earned her Ph.D. from Wayne State University, where she studied Clinical Psychology and specialized in the assessment and treatment of substance use and co-occurring disorders. Dr. Struble is particularly interested in understanding cannabis use risks, behaviors, and consequences among the LGBTQ+ population. Under the primary mentorship of Dr. Alan Budney, Dr. Struble is interested in the development of scalable digital technologies, adapted for LGBTQ+ populations, to improve access to evidence-based treatments for cannabis and co-occurring mental health problems. She is currently working on an internally funded study aimed recruiting and engaging LGBTQ+ cannabis consumers in research to assess interest in digital therapeutics for cannabis and mental health problems. Dr. Struble is also a working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, specializing in the treatment of substance use disorders at a local nonprofit organization.