Expectancy of impairment attenuates marijuana-induced risk taking

Rachel L. Gunn, Linda Skalski, Jane Metrik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background Marijuana use has been associated with increased risk-taking and impulsive behavior. While pharmacologic effects of marijuana can lead to inhibitory impairment, expectancy of potential impairment may result in compensatory behavioral response by decreasing impulsive decisions and risky behaviors. With the increases in marijuana use and related problems, a better understanding of the individual characteristics associated with marijuana intoxication and risky behavior is needed. This study examined the role of impairment expectancies in marijuana's acute effects on behavioral measures of impulsivity and risk-taking. Methods Participants (N = 136) were regular marijuana users. A balanced placebo design (BPD) was used crossing marijuana administration (i.e., 0% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vs. 2.8% THC) with stimulus expectancy (i.e., Told Placebo vs. Told THC). Marijuana outcome expectancies were measured by self-report and dependent measures included a number of behavioral impulsivity tasks and the balloon analogue risk task (BART). Results Among participants who received THC, higher expectancies for cognitive-behavioral impairment (CBI) were related to lower risk-taking on the BART. Among those who received placebo, there was no association between CBI expectancies and BART performance. CBI expectancies did not moderate the stimulus expectancy effect on the BART nor drug or stimulus expectancy effects on impulsivity measures. Conclusions Results provide initial evidence that expectancies of greater impairment are associated with compensatory behavior on a risk-taking task under acute marijuana intoxication. Future studies should examine the role of impairment expectancies on risk behaviors of substantial public health concern, such as driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-42
Number of pages4
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant R01 DA021403 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to Jane Metrik. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


  • BART
  • Balanced placebo design
  • Expectancies
  • Marijuana
  • Risk-taking


Dive into the research topics of 'Expectancy of impairment attenuates marijuana-induced risk taking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this