Routes of administration of cannabis used for nonmedical purposes and associations with patterns of drug use

J Adolesc Health. 2014 Feb;54(2):235-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.08.013. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


Purpose: Little is known regarding cannabis administration routes for nonmedical use-that is, its delivery methods (e.g., joints, water pipe, food). Therefore, we examined the prevalence rates of different cannabis delivery methods and assessed the relationship of the distinct administration routes with problematic drug use. Subgroups of cannabis users were also investigated (i.e., "pure" cannabis users, previously described as employing a harmless route of administration, and water pipe users, previously described as using a harmful route of administration).

Methods: As part of the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors, 1,763 cannabis users answered questions concerning their drug use (i.e., routes of administration, problematic cannabis use, other illicit drug use). Descriptive statistics, latent class analysis, correlations and t-tests were assessed.

Results: The main administration route was "joints with tobacco"; other routes of administration had prevalence rates from 23.99% to 38.23%. In addition, increasing the number of administration routes was associated with more problematic cannabis use, as well as heavier illicit drug use. Water pipes without tobacco were especially linked to heavy drug use patterns, whereas "pure" cannabis use seemed less harmful.

Conclusions: Our findings highlighted that diversification in routes of administration can be associated with heavier illicit drug use. This was especially true for water pipe users, whereas "pure" cannabis users, who did not mix cannabis with tobacco, were an exception. Indeed, these results may be useful for future preventive programs, which may need to focus on those who have diversified routes of administration for cannabis.

Keywords: Cannabis administration routes; Patterns of drug use; Problematic cannabis use; Water pipe; “Pure” cannabis use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Administration Routes*
  • Eating
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse*
  • Marijuana Smoking*
  • Young Adult