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Younger first-time users more likely to experience addiction

A recent study found a higher prevalence of substance use disorder , or SUD, within 12 months of first using cannabis among adolescents than among young adults.  (Getty Images)
A recent study found a higher prevalence of substance use disorder , or SUD, within 12 months of first using cannabis among adolescents than among young adults. (Getty Images)
By Theresa Tanner EVERCANNABIS Writer

A study, published by JAMA Pediatrics March 29, 2021, found a higher prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) within 12 months of first using cannabis among adolescents than among young adults.

Researchers examined the prevalence of specific SUDs since first drug use (including tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin) or prescription misuse (including opioids, stimulants and tranquilizers) in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and young adults aged 18 to 25 years.

The study examined data collected in the 2015 to 2018 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco were the most used substances. Adjusted prevalence of cannabis use disorder was higher among adolescents than among young adults within 12 months of initiation (10.7% vs. 6.4%) and at more than 36 months (20.1% vs. 10.9%).

Prevalence of alcohol use disorder and nicotine dependence did not differ between the groups within 12 months of initiation but was higher for young adults in subsequent periods.

“One in 10 teens having a marijuana addiction – that’s huge,” said study senior author and director of the U.S.’s National Institute on Drug Abuse Nora Volkow in a phone interview with Bloomberg.com.

The study also revealed that the adolescent age group who tried prescription opioids had an addiction rate of 11.2% compared to the 6.9% addiction rate of young adults.

The findings reinforce previous studies and concerns that early drug use may have a negative impact on developing teenage brains. While cannabis use is becoming more culturally accepted in adult populations with increased legality across the country, education and science-based information are needed to help adolescents understand the risks of underage use.

“There’s a belief among parents that it’s normal to experiment with drugs and alcohol,” Dr. Krishna White, an adolescent medicine physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a USA Today interview. “But we know that the younger kids are drinking, using cannabis and using prescription drugs, the riskier it is.”

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