When Pot Use Starts in Teens, Drug Addiction More Likely

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Teens who try marijuana or other drugs are at greater risk of developing a drug addiction than those who wait a few years before experimenting with drugs, a new study finds.

"Though not everyone who uses a drug will develop addiction, adolescents may develop addiction to substances faster than young adults," said study co-lead author Dr. Nora Volkow. She is director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

"This study provides further evidence that delaying substance exposure until the brain is more fully developed may lower risk for developing a substance use disorder," Volkow said in a NIDA news release.

For the study, Volkow's team analyzed data from the U.S. National Surveys on Drug Use and Health to assess the proportion of adolescents (aged 12 to 17) and young adults (aged 18 to 25) who had an addiction at various intervals since the first time they used or misused one of nine different drugs: tobacco; alcohol; cannabis; cocaine; methamphetamine; heroin; and prescription drugs (opioids, stimulants, and tranquilizers).

Addiction was evaluated at four points since first drug use: 12 months or less; more than 12 through 24 months; more than 24 through 36 months; and more than 36 months. The study period covered from 2015 to 2018.

Rates of past-year cannabis use disorder were greater among teens than young adults at all the time points since first use of the drug. For example, within 12 months since first cannabis use, nearly 11% of adolescents had the disorder, compared with just over 6% of young adults.

Rates of non-medical use of prescription drugs were also greater among teens than young adults at all time points since first use. For example, within 12 months since the first misuse of prescription drugs:

  • 11% of adolescents had prescription opioid use disorder versus 7% of young adults.
  • 14% of adolescents had prescription stimulant use disorder versus 4% of young adults.
  • 11% of adolescents had prescription tranquilizer use disorder versus nearly 5% of young adults.

Teens and young adults had similar rates of tobacco and alcohol addiction within 12 months of first using the substances, but the rate was higher among young adults in subsequent time periods examined by the researchers.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: HealthDay