Early onset of alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use is an indicator of later substance use problems in adulthood such as alcohol or other drug dependence. This paper seeks to address the association between early onset alcohol, marijuana, cigarette, and polysubstance use with injection drug use among recent illicit drug users. The current study used baseline data from the Baltimore site of the NEURO-HIV Epidemiologic Study, an investigation of neuropsychological and social-behavioral risk factors of HIV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C among both injection and non-injection drug users in Baltimore, Maryland. The present study used a subset (N=651) of the larger parent study that identified as White or Black, and reported any drug use in the past 6 months. In the full sample slightly more than half (52.5%) of study participants were IDUs. IDUs differed from non-IDUs on age of initiation for cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol, with IDUs initiating the use of all three substances significantly earlier than non-IDUs. IDUs also had significantly greater proportions of early onset of alcohol (χ(2)=19.71, p<.01), cigarette (χ(2)=11.05, p<.01), marijuana (χ(2)=10.83, p<.01), and polysubstance use (χ(2)=23.48, p<.01) than non-IDUs. After adjusting for age, gender, and race/ethnicity, only participants identified as early onset alcohol users (AOR=1.47, 95% CI: 1.00-2.18) and early onset polysubstance users (AOR=1.62, 95% CI: 1.10-2.38) were more likely to have IDU status than those who reported initiating substance use later. IDU status was then stratified by race/ethnicity. After controlling for age and gender, only early polysubstance use was a significant predictor of IDU status for Whites (AOR=2.06, 95% CI: 1.07-3.93). Consistent with literature on early substance initiation and later illicit substance use, early onset of alcohol and polysubstance use is an important risk factor for IDU in adulthood.
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