Background: While several studies have shown a high association between cannabis use and use of other illicit drugs, the predictors of progression from cannabis to other illicit drugs remain largely unknown. This study aims to estimate the cumulative probability of progression to illicit drug use among individuals with lifetime history of cannabis use, and to identify predictors of progression from cannabis use to other illicit drugs use.
Methods: Analyses were conducted on the sub-sample of participants in Wave 1 of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) who started cannabis use before using any other drug (n=6624). Estimated projections of the cumulative probability of progression from cannabis use to use of any other illegal drug use in the general population were obtained by the standard actuarial method. Univariate and multivariable survival analyses with time-varying covariates were implemented to identify predictors of progression to any drug use.
Results: Lifetime cumulative probability estimates indicated that 44.7% of individuals with lifetime cannabis use progressed to other illicit drug use at some time in their lives. Several sociodemographic characteristics, internalizing and externalizing psychiatric disorders and indicators of substance use severity predicted progression from cannabis use to other illicit drugs use.
Conclusion: A large proportion of individuals who use cannabis go on to use other illegal drugs. The increased risk of progression from cannabis use to other illicit drugs use among individuals with mental disorders underscores the importance of considering the benefits and adverse effects of changes in cannabis regulations and of developing prevention and treatment strategies directed at curtailing cannabis use in these populations.
Keywords: Cannabis; Gateway; Other illicit drugs; Progression.
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