Early Marijuana Use Linked to Adult Dependence
A new SAMHSA report concludes that the younger children are when
they first use marijuana, the more likely they are to use cocaine
and heroin and become dependent on drugs as adults.
The report, Initiation of Marijuana Use: Trends, Patterns
and Implications, found that 62 percent of adults age 26 or
older who initiated use of marijuana before they were 15 years old
reported that they had used cocaine in their lifetime. More than
9 percent reported they had used heroin and 53.9 percent reported
non-medical use of psychotherapeutics. This compares to a 0.6-percent
rate of lifetime use of cocaine, a 0.1-percent rate of lifetime
use of heroin, and a 5.1 percent rate of lifetime non-medical use
of psychotherapeutics for those who never used marijuana. Increases
in the likelihood of cocaine and heroin use and drug dependence
are also apparent for those who initiate use of marijuana at any
The report is based on the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
for 1999 and for 2000 conducted by SAMHSA's Office of Applied
The report found that 18 percent of people age 26 and older who
began using marijuana before age 15 met the criteria for either
dependence or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs, compared to 2.1
percent of adults who never used marijuana. Among past-year users
of marijuana who had first used marijuana before age 15, 40 percent
met the criteria for either dependence or abuse of alcohol or illicit
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director John
Walters said, "Every day in this country, more than 5,000
people—most of them under the age of 18—use marijuana
for the first time. Their early marijuana use exposes them to risks
of drug dependencies, long-term physical and cognitive consequences,
and social problems. We must keep our young people out of harm's
way by educating them on the dangers of marijuana use, preventing
initiation of the drug, and getting them help if they have already
starting using it."
Overall, the report found that an estimated 2 million Americans
age 12 or older indicated they used marijuana for the first time
in 1999. This was fewer than the 2.5 million new users in 1998,
but still more than 1.4 million new users, found in 1989 and 1990.
SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., said, "Among
recent initiates of marijuana, nearly three-quarters had first used
between the ages of 13 and 18. More than a quarter initiated before
age 15. These findings are of grave concern."
Among persons age 12 to 25 who had never used marijuana, those
who had smoked cigarettes were an estimated 6 times more likely
than non-smokers to initiate marijuana use within 1 year. Alcohol
users were an estimated 7 to 9 times more likely than non-users to
start using marijuana within a year. Daily cigarette smoking was
associated with a twofold increase in risk for marijuana initiation.
The nine states with the highest rates of recent new marijuana
users age 12 to 17 were Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts,
Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Vermont.
The lowest rates of recent marijuana initiates age 12 to 17 were
in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
For a copy of the report, contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse
for Alcohol and Drug Information at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD
20847-2345. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish)
or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). The report is also available on
the SAMHSA Web site at oas.samhsa.gov/MJinitiation/toc.htm.
AlsoRelated ContentPrevalence of Lifetime Use of Heroin, Cocaine, and Psychotherapeutics Among Adults Age 26 or Older, by Age of Marijuana Initiation: 1999 and 2000 »
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