The association between alcohol use trajectories from adolescence to adulthood and cannabis use disorder in adulthood: a 22-year longitudinal study

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2017 Nov;43(6):727-733. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2017.1288734. Epub 2017 Mar 1.


Background: Due to the increasing prevalence of cannabis use disorder (CUD), the impact of cannabis use on public health may be significant.

Objective: The present study seeks the possible precursors (e.g., alcohol use) of CUD in order to minimize the potential negative consequences of CUD such as impaired coordination and performance.

Method: The Harlem Longitudinal Development Study included 674 participants (53% African Americans, 47% Puerto Ricans), with 60% females (n=405) from a six wave survey. We used a growth mixture model to obtain the trajectories of alcohol use from the mean ages of 14 to 36. To examine the associations between alcohol use trajectories and CUD, we used logistic regression analyses with the indicator of CUD as the dependent variable and the indicator of membership in each trajectory group as the independent variables.

Results: A three alcohol use trajectory group model was selected. Male gender, higher frequency of cannabis use in adolescence, and a lower educational level were associated with an increased likelihood of having CUD. Membership in the increasing alcohol use group (OR=27.44, p < .01; AOR=15.54, p < .01) and the moderate alcohol use group (OR=10.40, p < .05; AOR=8.63, p < .05) were associated with an increased likelihood of having CUD compared with the membership in the no or low alcohol use group.

Conclusions: The findings of our study support the hypothesis that addressing alcohol use at an early age could impact later CUD.

Keywords: Cannabis use disorder; alcohol use; longitudinal study; trajectory analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult