Original Research

Theoretical understanding of contextual motivations for sustained adolescent marijuana use in South Africa

Emmanuel Manu, Mbuyiselo Douglas, Mohlomi J. Ntsaba
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 27 | a1615 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v27i0.1615 | © 2021 Emmanuel Manu, Mbuyiselo Douglas, Mohlomi J. Ntsaba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 August 2020 | Published: 29 July 2021

About the author(s)

Emmanuel Manu, Department of Population and Behavioural Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Hohoe, Ghana
Mbuyiselo Douglas, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Mohlomi J. Ntsaba, Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha, South Africa


Background: Although various reasons for adolescent marijuana use have extensively been explored, contextual factors that sustain the practice in settings where the plant is illegally cultivated, especially in South Africa, remain a grey area.

Aim: We aimed to explore the contextual factors of sustained adolescent marijuana use in two illicit marijuana-growing settings of the Ingquza Hill Local Municipality of South Africa, based on the differential opportunity theory (DOT) and subcultural theory (SCT).

Setting: The study was conducted in two illicit marijuana-growing communities in the Ingquza Hill Local Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

Methods: Exploratory qualitative research, using focus group discussions approach, was conducted amongst 37 participants, four focus groups and in two communities in the Ingquza Hill Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Purposive and snowball sampling techniques were used to select the communities and participants, respectively. The data were analysed using a thematic content analysis approach and presented under various themes.

Results: Nine themes, grouped under two broad factors, DOT influences (availability and affordability of marijuana, idleness and means of dealing with personal problems) and SCT influences (peer conformity, the pleasure derived from marijuana smoking, manipulation of appetite, health reasons, for higher cognitive function and addiction), emerged from the analysis.

Conclusion: As marijuana has been identified to be a gateway drug for the use of other illicit drugs, its sustained usage amongst adolescents poses a health challenge to the user, community and the country’s healthcare system at large. Hence, there is the need to intensify adolescent marijuana use prevention campaigns in illicit marijuana-growing contexts of South Africa, focussing on the differential opportunities and subcultural inclinations that promote the behaviour in those contexts.


motivation; marijuana use; adolescence; vulnerable populations; substance abuse


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