Parental marijuana use was associated with elevated risk of substance use among adolescent and young adult offspring living in the same household

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

On Friday, JAMA Network Open published critical information for parents across the nation. The article indicates that recent and past parental marijuana use confers a heightened risk for use of marijuana and other substances by adolescent and young adult offspring who live in the same household. The article was completed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse and McLean Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

First, this article shows that parental past-year marijuana use is consistently associated with increased unadjusted risk of past-year marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol use and opioid misuse among both adolescent and young adult offspring. Second, even if a parent had lifetime (without past-year) marijuana use or relatively less frequent use (fewer than 52 days in the past year), unadjusted prevalence of past-year substance use among offspring was generally elevated. These results highlight that parental marijuana use is a risk factor for offspring substance use or misuse across a broad range of substances, including marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, and opioids – even when parental marijuana use is less frequent or in the past. Third, after adjusting for potential confounders related to offspring, familial, and environmental factors, the multivariable results suggest that parental marijuana use is a specific risk factor for marijuana and tobacco use by both adolescent and young adult offspring and for alcohol use by adolescent offspring. Fourth, adolescent offspring’s substance use appears to be particularly associated with a mother’s marijuana use status. Even after adjusting for potential confounding factors (including a mother’s alcohol use status), a mother’s marijuana use status was associated with adolescent offspring’s past-year alcohol use. These results indicate that a mother’s marijuana use status is more than a substance use risk factor and suggest the differential and pivotal roles that a mother plays in the development of her adolescent offspring.

“This article highlights the risks of marijuana use not just for an individual but the risk of the increased likelihood of use among offspring,” said Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D. “This is vital information for all parents.” The results of this study inform clinicians and policymakers that screening for marijuana use and educating individuals, patients, and families about the risks is essential.

This article, titled “Associations of Parental Marijuana Use with Offspring's Marijuana, Tobacco, and Alcohol Use and Opioid Misuse,” is based on nationally representative data from 24,900 father-offspring or mother-offspring groups of two people (or dyads) sampled from the same household who participated in SAMHSA’s 2015-2018 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). For more information about SAMHSA and NSDUH, please visit: https://www.samhsa.gov.

Reporters with questions about the article should contact SAMHSA’s press team by calling 240-276-2130 or by emailing media@samhsa.hhs.gov.

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 11/27/2019