BACKGROUND: Though substance use is often associated with elevated risk-taking in real-world scenarios, many risk-taking tasks in experimental psychology using financial gambles fail to find significant differences between individuals with substance use disorders and healthy controls. We assessed whether participants using marijuana would show a greater propensity for risk-taking in distinct domains including, but not limited to, financial risk-taking.
METHODS: In the current study, we assessed risk-taking in young adult (age 18-25) regular marijuana users and in non-using control participants using a domain-specific risk-taking self-report scale (DOSPERT) encompassing five domains of risk-taking (social, financial, recreational, health/safety, and ethical). We also measured behavioral risk-taking using a laboratory monetary risk-taking task.
RESULTS: Marijuana users and controls reported significant differences on the social, health/safety, and ethical risk-taking scales, but no differences in the propensity to take recreational or financial risks. Complementing the self-report finding, there were no differences between marijuana users and controls in their performance on the laboratory risk-taking task.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that financial risk-taking may be less sensitive than other domains of risk-taking in assessing differences in risky behavior between those who use marijuana and those who do not. In order to more consistently determine whether increased risk-taking is a factor in substance use, it may be necessary to use both monetary risk-taking tasks and complementary assessments of non-monetary-based risk-taking measures.