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Home > Relationships between age at first substance use and persistence of cannabis use and cannabis use disorder.

Millar, Sean and Mongan, Deirdre and Smyth, Bobby P and Perry, Ivan J and Galvin, Brian (2021) Relationships between age at first substance use and persistence of cannabis use and cannabis use disorder. BMC Public Health, 21, . https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-11023-0.

External website: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles...


Background

From a secondary prevention perspective, it is useful to know who is at greatest risk of progressing from substance initiation to riskier patterns of future use. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine relationships between age at first use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis and patterns of cannabis use, frequency of use and whether age of substance use onset is related to having a cannabis use disorder (CUD).

 

Methods

We analysed data from Ireland’s 2010/11 and 2014/15 National Drug Prevalence Surveys, which recruited 5134 and 7005 individuals respectively, aged 15 years and over, living in private households. We included only those people who reported lifetime cannabis use. Multinomial, linear and binary logistic regression analyses were used to determine relationships between age of substance use onset and patterns of cannabis use, frequency of use and having a CUD.

 

Results

When compared to former users, the odds of being a current cannabis user were found to be reduced by 11% (OR = 0.89; 95% CI: 0.83, 0.95) and 4% (OR = 0.96; 95% CI: 0.92, 1.00) for each year of delayed alcohol and cannabis use onset, respectively. Among current users, significant inverse linear relationships were noted, with increasing age of first use of tobacco (β = − 0.547; P < .001) and cannabis (β = − 0.634; P < .001) being associated with a decreased frequency of cannabis use within the last 30 days. The odds of having a CUD were found to be reduced by 14% (OR = 0.86; 95% CI: 0.78, 0.94) and 11% (OR = 0.89; 95% CI: 0.82, 0.98) for each year of delayed tobacco and cannabis use onset respectively in analyses which examined survey participants aged 15–34 years.

 

Conclusions

Among people who report past cannabis use, it is those with a more precocious pattern of early use of substances, including alcohol, and especially tobacco and cannabis, who are more likely to report ongoing, heavy and problematic cannabis use. Secondary prevention initiatives should prioritise people with a pattern of very early onset substance use.

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