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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Dec 1;133(2):352-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.06.009. Epub 2013 Jul 22.

Predicting the transition from frequent cannabis use to cannabis dependence: a three-year prospective study.

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Trimbos Institute, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, PO Box 725, 3500 AS Utrecht, The Netherlands. Electronic address:



Frequent cannabis users are at high risk of dependence, still most (near) daily users are not dependent. It is unknown why some frequent users develop dependence, whereas others do not. This study aims to identify predictors of first-incidence DSM-IV cannabis dependence in frequent cannabis users.


A prospective cohort of frequent cannabis users (aged 18-30, n=600) with baseline and two follow-up assessments (18 and 36 months) was used. Only participants without lifetime diagnosis of DSM-IV cannabis dependence at baseline (n=269) were selected. Incidence of DSM-IV cannabis dependence was established using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 3.0. Variables assessed as potential predictors of the development of cannabis dependence included sociodemographic factors, cannabis use variables (e.g., motives, consumption habits, cannabis exposure), vulnerability factors (e.g., childhood adversity, family history of mental disorders or substance use problems, personality, mental disorders), and stress factors (e.g., life events, social support).


Three-year cumulative incidence of cannabis dependence was 37.2% (95% CI=30.7-43.8%). Independent predictors of the first incidence of cannabis dependence included: living alone, coping motives for cannabis use, number and type of recent negative life events (major financial problems), and number and type of cannabis use disorder symptoms (impaired control over use). Cannabis exposure variables and stable vulnerability factors did not independently predict first incidence of cannabis dependence.


In a high risk population of young adult frequent cannabis users, current problems are more important predictors of first incidence cannabis dependence than the level and type of cannabis exposure and stable vulnerability factors.


Cannabis dependence; Exposure; Frequent cannabis use; Longitudinal; Risk factors

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