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The Association Between Bi+ Stigma and Problematic Cannabis Use: Testing Coping Motives as an Underlying Mechanism

Dyar C, Feinstein BA, Newcomb ME, Whitton SW

Objective: Bi+ individuals (i.e., people with attractions to more than one gender) are at heightened risk for cannabis use disorders compared with heterosexual and lesbian/gay individuals, and their heightened risk has been attributed to the unique stressors that they experience as bi+ individuals. Limited research has quantitatively examined the association between enacted bi+ stigma (i.e., biased treatment by others based on one's bi+ identity/attractions) and cannabis use problems among bi+ individuals. Existing studies have been limited by their cross-sectional designs and their lack of attention to potential mechanisms underlying this association.

Method: We used four waves of data (6 months between waves) from 317 bi+ individuals assigned female at birth who reported cannabis use. The goals of our analyses were to examine (a) the prospective association between enacted bi+ stigma and problematic cannabis use; and (b) coping motives (i.e., motivations to use cannabis to cope with negative emotions) as a mediator of this association.

Results: At the within-person level, when participants experienced more enacted bi+ stigma than usual at a given wave (time t-2), they experienced a subsequent increase in their motivation to use cannabis to cope (time t-1), which in turn, predicted a subsequent increase in problematic cannabis use (time t). This within-person indirect effect was significant.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that enacted bi+ stigma contributes to problematic cannabis use by increasing motivations to use cannabis to cope with negative emotions. As such, coping motives may be an important treatment target to reduce problematic cannabis use among bi+ individuals.

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