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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 Aug 1;117(1):7-15. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.12.023. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Childhood predictors of first chance to use and use of cannabis by young adulthood.

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Department of Family and Community Health, School of Nursing, University of Maryland, 655 West Lombard Street Rm 655A, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



To prospectively examine the linkage between childhood antecedents and progression to early cannabis involvement as manifest in first chance to try it and then first onset of cannabis use.


Two consecutive cohorts of children entering first grade of a public school system of a large mid-Atlantic city in the mid 1980s (n=2311) were assessed (mean age 6.5 years) and then followed into young adulthood (15 years later, mean age 21) when first chance to try and first use were assessed for 75% (n=1698) of the original sample. Assessments obtained at school included standardized readiness scores (reading; math) and teacher ratings of behavioral problems. Regression and time to event models included covariates for sex, race, and family disadvantage.


Early classroom misconduct, better reading readiness, and better math readiness predicted either occurrence or timing of first chance to try cannabis, first use, or both. Higher levels of childhood concentration problems and lower social connectedness were not predictive.


Childhood school readiness and behavioral problems may influence the risk for cannabis smoking indirectly via an increased likelihood of first chance to use. Prevention efforts that seek to shield youths from having a chance to try cannabis might benefit from attention to early predictive behavioral and school readiness characteristics. When a youth's chance to try cannabis is discovered, there are new windows of opportunity for prevention and intervention.

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