Relationship between adolescent marijuana use and young adult illicit drug use

Behav Genet. 2006 Jul;36(4):498-506. doi: 10.1007/s10519-006-9064-9. Epub 2006 Mar 25.


: We examined three components of the "gateway theory" in relation to marijuana use: (1) whether adolescent marijuana use predicts young adult drug use, (2) whether this association persists when controlling for similar family background, (3) whether common genetic or environmental factors contribute to the association. The three components were tested in adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health assessed twice during adolescence and then re-interviewed 5 years later. Component 1 was tested in 18,286 subjects, component 2 in sibling pairs (n=360) discordant for marijuana use, and component 3 in a genetically informative sub-sample (n=4846). Marijuana use was defined as any use during adolescence, and drug use was defined as self-reported past year use of other illicit drugs besides marijuana. Marijuana users were twice as likely to use illicit drugs as young adults than non-users. Shared environmental factors mediated much of the relationship between adolescent marijuana use and young adult drug use. The association remained, however, even when controlling for familial environmental and other measured factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Colorado
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Marijuana Abuse / classification
  • Marijuana Abuse / complications
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / classification
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Illicit Drugs