Page last updated: September 17, 2018

Increasing number of young people try cannabis before drinking alcohol

A study published by the Prevention Science suggests that the recent loosening of state and federal policy restrictions on marijuana, along with changes in social norms regarding marijuana use and decreases in prevalence of other types of substance use, may lead to increases in youth initiating marijuana before other types of substances such as alcohol and tobacco.

Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development looked at the lifestyles of more than 275,000 people aged from 12 to 21 years old between 2004 and 2014, and asked them about their drinking, smoking, cannabis and illicit drug use habits. The data showed that in 2004, 4.8% of respondents cited cannabis as the first drug they used. But by 2014 this number had almost doubled to 8%. Those using marijuana first (vs. alcohol or cigarettes first) were more likely to be male and older and Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, multiracial, or Hispanic than White or Asian.

The authors state that in recent years, youth have been increasingly likely to use marijuana as their first drug and sequence of initiation is associated with race/ethnicity, gender, and age.

Source: When Marijuana Is Used before Cigarettes or Alcohol: Demographic Predictors and Associations with Heavy Use, Cannabis Use Disorder, and Other Drug-related Outcomes. Fairman, B.J., Furr-Holden, C.D. & Johnson, R.M. Prev Sci (2018). s11121-018-0908-3

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