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Marijuana Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Aged 18 to 30: Early vs. Adult Initiation.


Strashny A.


The CBHSQ Report. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2013-.
2013 Aug 13.


Background: If marijuana use begins in adolescence when the brain is still developing, the negative impact of chronic marijuana use on cognitive function and structure can last several years and may be permanent. Lost cognitive abilities may not be restored in those who quit using marijuana as adults. Methods: Data from the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) were analyzed for treatment admissions that reported marijuana as one of the three substances of abuse at treatment entry, comparing those that initiated marijuana use before the age of 18 (early initiates) with those that reported initiating use at age 18 or older (adult initiates). Both groups were restricted to those marijuana admissions that were aged 18 to 30 at treatment entry. Results: The proportion of all marijuana admissions aged 18 to 30 reporting early marijuana initiation remained relatively constant between 2000 and 2010 with 83.7 and 86.8%, respectively. A higher proportion of early initiates than of adult initiates reported 6 or more years of marijuana use (81.1 vs. 45.8%). Marijuana admissions reporting early initiation were more likely than those reporting adult initiation to have had at least one prior admission to treatment (56.5 vs. 40.5%). Conclusion: Marijuana admissions reporting early initiation shows a complicated drug use history characterized by longer durations of marijuana use, the abuse of more substances, and more reported prior treatment episodes compared with marijuana admissions reporting adult initiation. Admissions that initiate marijuana use early may require more intensive services to address polysubstance use, including targeted relapse prevention and aftercare in order to build the skills necessary for stabilization and sustained recovery. The high proportion of marijuana treatment admissions whose marijuana use began at age 17 or younger remained relatively constant from 2000 to 2010. The persistence of this proportion points to the need for effective prevention services targeted at teens. Report findings show that over one tenth of marijuana admissions reporting early initiation began using at age 11 or younger, which signals the critical importance of including youth under the age of 12 when designing and implementing youth-focused prevention efforts.

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