Historical trends in the grade of onset and sequence of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among adolescents from 1976-2016: implications for ìGatewayî patterns in adolescence

Publication Abstract

Keyes, Katherine, Caroline Rutherford, and Richard A. Miech. 2019. "Historical trends in the grade of onset and sequence of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among adolescents from 1976-2016: implications for ìGatewayî patterns in adolescence." Drug and alcohol dependence, 194: 51-58.

Introduction: In the past decade, marijuana use prevalence among adolescents has remained relatively steady while cigarette and alcohol prevalence has declined. We examined historical trends in: average grade of onset of marijuana, alcohol, and cigarette use by 12th grade; proportion who try alcohol/cigarettes before first marijuana use, among those who use by 12th grade; and conditional probability of marijuana use by 12th grade after trying alcohol/cigarettes.

Methods: Data were drawn from 40 yearly, cross-sectional surveys of 12th grade US adolescents. A subset of students (N = 246,050) were asked when they first used each substance. We reconstructed cohorts of substance use from grade-of-onset to determine sequence of drug use, as well as probability of marijuana use in the same or later grade.

Results: Average grade of first alcohol and cigarette use by 12th grade increased across time; e.g., first cigarette increased from grade 7.9 in 1986 to 9.0 by 2016 (, SE = 0.001, p < 0.01). The proportion of 12th grade adolescents who smoke cigarettes before marijuana fell below 50% in 2006. Each one-year increase was associated with 1.11 times increased odds of first cigarette in a grade after first marijuana (95% C.I. 1.11-1.12). Among those who initiate alcohol/cigarettes prior to marijuana by 12th grade, the probability of subsequent marijuana use is increasing.

Conclusion: Marijuana is increasingly the first substance in the sequence of adolescent drug use. Reducing adolescent smoking has been a remarkable achievement of the past 20 years; those who continue to smoke are at higher risk for progression to marijuana use.

10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.09.015

Keywords:
Drug & Alcohol Use

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