Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: association with recent use and age

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Jan 1;92(1-3):239-47. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005. Epub 2007 Sep 20.


Aim: We extend the literature on the association of early onset of drug use and estimated risk for developing a substance use disorder (SUD) by investigating the risk that recent onset of alcohol and cannabis use confers for developing a substance use disorder at each chronological age of adolescence and young adulthood (12-21-years-old).

Design: Using 2003 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), 2004. Overview of Findings from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-24, DHHS Publication No. SMA-04-3963, Rockville, MD], we computed separate risk indices for developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder for recent (prior 2 years) alcohol and cannabis users, respectively, at each age from 12 to 21 years of age, and compared estimated risk to recent onsets users among respondents aged 22-26.

Findings: The results indicated that the teenage years were strongly linked to an elevated risk status. The odds ratio (OR) of having a prior year alcohol use disorder (AUD) among recent onset alcohol users was significantly elevated for youth at ages 14, 16, 17 and 18 (range of ORs=2.0-2.1) compared to the estimated risk for AUD among recent onset users aged 22-26. For cannabis, we obtained significantly elevated ORs for a cannabis use disorder (CUD) at each of teenage years (ages 12-18; range of ORs=3.9-7.2), when compared to older recent onset users (aged 22-26).

Conclusions: These data provide further epidemiological support that adolescence is a particularly vulnerable period for developing a SUD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Child
  • Data Collection
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology