Objectives: Prior research has identified developmental stages in drug use in adolescence, from substances that are legal for adults to illicit drugs. The position of crack in patterns of drug involvement remains to be established.
Methods: The analyses are based on a sample (n = 1108) representative of 12th graders attending New York State public and private schools. From reported ages of first use of five classes of drugs (alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine but not crack, crack), alternate models of progression were tested for their goodness of fit through log-linear models.
Results: The sequence involves at the earliest stage the use of at least one licit drug, alcohol or cigarettes. Subsequent stages involve marijuana and cocaine; crack is the last drug in the sequence. The results confirm the more important role of alcohol among males and cigarettes among females in the progression into various drug classes. Age of first drug use at a lower stage is a strong predictor of further progression.
Conclusions: The developmental pattern of drug involvement identified in the early 1970s still characterizes adolescent pathways of drug involvement in the late 1980s.