Researching for LGBTQ Health

Illicit Cannabis Use Among Bisexual Women in Ontario

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the country, with 9% of Canadians reporting using cannabis in the past year. However, US and Australian studies indicate that 38-60% of bisexual women report past year cannabis use, a rate 3-5 times that of our straight peers.

“When I saw the US numbers, I was surprised,” says Dr. Margaret Robinson, a fellow in community-based research at CAMH, and lead on the cannabis study. “The rates of cannabis use for bi women were a huge spike. I wanted to know if that was happening here in Canada too, and if so, what might be going on.”

Using data from the Risk & Resilience Study, Margaret hopes to determine:

  1. If cannabis use is elevated among bisexual women in Ontario;
  2. If bisexual women’s cannabis use is associated with factors such as social support, being out to others, or measures of mental health such as depression.
  3. What bisexual women who use cannabis see as its positive and negative effects.
  4. The community and social context in which bisexual women’s cannabis use occurs.

Our study takes a normalization approach, framing recreational cannabis use as a normal social phenomenon rather than as an individual problem. This study will address a key gap in Canadian research while also making a significant contribution to the literature on bisexual women’s cannabis use.

“I’m concerned about women in our community being stigmatized because of cannabis use,” Margaret admits. “Nobody has examined the impact this might have on our communities, or on women who may already be suffering from anxiety or depression.” Being labeled as a substance user may impact bisexual women’s housing, employment and child custody, and may be an obstacle to accessing mental health treatment.

Bisexual women who perceive their cannabis use as problematic may lack appropriate treatment options. Currently, no substance use treatment programs are tailored for bisexual women, and no published data examine bisexual women’s experience of treatment services.

In addition to using data from the Risk & Resilience survey, Margaret will conduct 10 on-on-one interviews with bisexual women who use cannabis. These interviews will explore the personal context of cannabis use, and changes in cannabis use or its meaning over time. “Women who use cannabis are really the experts when it comes to what’s going on in their lives,” notes Margaret. “My job is to listen, and to build my theory upon the solid foundation of their own experiences.”

In addition, Margaret will conduct two focus groups with bisexual women who use cannabis, and two focus groups with bisexual women who report no cannabis use. Both sets of focus groups will discuss women's perceptions of bisexual and/or LGBTQ community norms related to cannabis use, and how such norms shape use or non-use. “It’s so rare that we get research results about or own communities,” says Margaret. “Knowledge like this can really make a difference.”

Team:

  • Dr. Lori Ross
  • Dr. Margaret Robinson
  • Christina Yager, MSW, RW
  • Dr. Patricia Erickson
  • Dana Shaw
  • Loralee Gillis
  • Dr. Greta Bauer

Learn More:

Email:
margaret.robinson@camh.ca
Phone:
416-535-8501 ext. 77385

Funding:

Funded by the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, and the Social Aetiology of Mental Illness (SAMI) Training Program.

Project Outcomes: