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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 Aug;71(8):764-770. doi: 10.1136/jech-2016-208503. Epub 2017 Jun 7.

Patterns of cannabis use during adolescence and their association with harmful substance use behaviour: findings from a UK birth cohort.

Author information

1
School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
2
MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU), University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
3
UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
4
Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Evidence on the role of cannabis as a gateway drug is inconsistent. We characterise patterns of cannabis use among UK teenagers aged 13-18 years, and assess their influence on problematic substance use at age 21 years.

METHODS:

We used longitudinal latent class analysis to derive trajectories of cannabis use from self-report measures in a UK birth cohort. We investigated (1) factors associated with latent class membership and (2) whether latent class membership predicted subsequent nicotine dependence, harmful alcohol use and recent use of other illicit drugs at age 21 years.

RESULTS:

5315 adolescents had three or more measures of cannabis use from age 13 to 18 years. Cannabis use patterns were captured as four latent classes corresponding to 'non-users' (80.1%), 'late-onset occasional' (14.2%), 'early-onset occasional' (2.3%) and 'regular' users (3.4%). Sex, mother's substance use, and child's tobacco use, alcohol consumption and conduct problems were strongly associated with cannabis use. At age 21 years, compared with the non-user class, late-onset occasional, early-onset occasional and regular cannabis user classes had higher odds of nicotine dependence (OR=3.5, 95% CI 0.7 to 17.9; OR=12.1, 95% CI 1.0 to 150.3; and OR=37.2, 95% CI 9.5 to 144.8, respectively); harmful alcohol consumption (OR=2.6, 95% CI 1.5 to 4.3; OR=5.0, 95% CI 2.1 to 12.1; and OR=2.6, 95% CI 1.0 to 7.1, respectively); and other illicit drug use (OR=22.7, 95% CI 11.3 to 45.7; OR=15.9, 95% CI 3.9 to 64.4; and OR=47.9, 95% CI 47.9 to 337.0, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS:

One-fifth of the adolescents in our sample followed a pattern of occasional or regular cannabis use, and these young people were more likely to progress to harmful substance use behaviours in early adulthood.

KEYWORDS:

ADOLESCENTS CG; Cohort studies; DRUG MISUSE; LONGITUDINAL STUDIES

PMID:
28592420
PMCID:
PMC5537531
DOI:
10.1136/jech-2016-208503
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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