Risk for initiation of substance use as a function of age of onset of cigarette, alcohol and cannabis use: findings in a Midwestern female twin cohort

Prev Med. 2006 Aug;43(2):125-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2006.03.022. Epub 2006 May 11.


Objective: We investigated whether use and early-onset use of cigarettes, alcohol and cannabis contributed an increase in risk for initiation of subsequent psychoactive substances in women (N = 3729, mean age = 21.7).

Methods: Drugs were ordered in ascending order of initiation: cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis and other illicit drugs, with early-onset use of each drug used as a time-varying covariate to predict initiation of subsequent drugs. Interactions of use and early-onset use, with age of initiation of subsequent drugs, were evaluated using discrete-time Cox survival analyses.

Results: The association between each substance and the early-onset of subsequent drug use was strong (ORs 1.54-19.9). Women who initiated cigarette, alcohol or cannabis use at an early age were at elevated risk for early experimentation with each subsequent drug class. Furthermore, early-onset of more than one substance contributed greater risk for initiation of subsequent drugs.

Conclusion: Prevention efforts should target risk factors that contribute to early initiation of cigarette and alcohol use and may subsequently correlate with hard drug involvement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / complications
  • Missouri / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Twins