Background: The use of cannabis and other illegal drugs is particularly prevalent in male young adults and is associated with severe health problems. This longitudinal study explored variables associated with the onset of cannabis use and the onset of illegal drug use other than cannabis separately in male young adults, including demographics, religion and religiosity, health, social context, substance use, and personality. Furthermore, we explored how far the gateway hypothesis and the common liability to addiction model are in line with the resulting prediction models.
Methods: The data were gathered within the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors (C-SURF). Young men aged around 20 years provided demographic, social, health, substance use, and personality-related data at baseline. Onset of cannabis and other drug use were assessed at 15-months follow-up. Samples of 2,774 and 4,254 individuals who indicated at baseline that they have not used cannabis and other drugs, respectively, in their life and who provided follow-up data were used for the prediction models. Hierarchical logistic stepwise regressions were conducted, in order to identify predictors of the late onset of cannabis and other drug use separately.
Results: Not providing for oneself, having siblings, depressiveness, parental divorce, lower parental knowledge of peers and the whereabouts, peer pressure, very low nicotine dependence, and sensation seeking were positively associated with the onset of cannabis use. Practising religion was negatively associated with the onset of cannabis use. Onset of drug use other than cannabis showed a positive association with depressiveness, antisocial personality disorder, lower parental knowledge of peers and the whereabouts, psychiatric problems of peers, problematic cannabis use, and sensation seeking.
Conclusions: Consideration of the predictor variables identified within this study may help to identify young male adults for whom preventive measures for cannabis or other drug use are most appropriate. The results provide evidence for both the gateway hypothesis and the common liability to addiction model and point to further variables like depressiveness or practising of religion that might influence the onset of drug use.