"Buzzwords": Crowd-Sourcing and Quantifying U.S. Young Adult Terminology for Subjective Effects of Alcohol and Marijuana Use

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Prevalence of heavy alcohol use remain high, and daily marijuana use is at an all-time high in young adults. As perceptions of drug effects may guide risky decision making, understanding subjective feelings for alcohol and marijuana use is critical. Existing laboratory-based and diary metrics (0-100 rating of "how drunk/high do you feel?") may be problematic in differentiating levels of subjective effects. Measures incorporating contemporary language may better capture subjective feelings in experimental and ambulatory assessment designs. We developed 2 sliding scales based on crowd-sourced and rank-ordered feelings of subjective alcohol and marijuana effects. Two U.S. young adult (18-25 years) samples were drawn from Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk). In the first study, 323 (53.6% women, 68.4% White, M age = 23.0 years) alcohol and marijuana users provided words to describe subjective effects from alcohol use and from marijuana use. In a second study, 289 (46.4% female, 66.4% White, M age = 23.0 years) users rank-ordered the most common terms to correspond with subjective levels. The sliding scale for alcohol effects resulted in 4 anchors ranging from 0 to 100: slightly buzzed, tipsy/"happy," drunk, and wasted. The sliding scale for marijuana effects also had 4 anchors: relaxed, calm/chill, high, and stoned/baked. By incorporating broader and more contemporary subjective effects language, our metrics may better capture variability in young adults' perceived subjective effects from alcohol and marijuana use. Future work could build upon these findings by pairing sliding scales with measures of actual intoxication to understand within- and between-person covariation in subjective effects, actual impairment, and consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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