Young people choosing cannabis before alcohol

21st May, 2018 by Melita Kiely

There has been a “significant” increase in the number of young people experimenting with cannabis before trying alcohol or cigarettes, new research suggests.

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Young people are experimenting with marijuana before alcohol, study suggests

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, looked at information from more than 275,000 people aged from 12 to 21 years old between 2004 and 2014.

Participants were asked about their use of cannabis, cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs.

The data was published in Springer’s journal Prevention Science and showed that in 2004, 4.8% of respondents cited cannabis as the first drug they dabbled in. But by 2014, this number had almost doubled to 8%.

Further analysis showed that those who did use cannabis first were more likely to be male, and either black, American, Indian/Alaskan native, multicultural or Hispanic.

Furthermore, those who opted to try cannabis before alcohol or cigarettes were more likely to become heavy users in later life.

Brian Fairman, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US, said: “We also observed a significant increase in youth abstaining from substance use altogether, which rose from 36% to 46%, and therefore it is unclear the degree to which increases in those initiating marijuana first could be due to youth abstaining or delaying cigarettes.

“To the degree these trends continue and greater numbers of youth start with marijuana as their first drug, there may be an increasing need for public interventions and treatment services for marijuana-related problems.”

In the US and Canada, there has been a greater focus cannabis recently as states have moved to legalise the drug. In December last year, analysts at Euromonitor International said that legalisation could hit alcohol sales and warned that the “dangers of a cannibalising effect are very real”.

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