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Front Psychiatry. 2018 Jun 27;9:283. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00283. eCollection 2018.

Non-medical Cannabis Self-Exposure as a Dimensional Predictor of Opioid Dependence Diagnosis: A Propensity Score Matched Analysis.

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Laboratory on the Biology of Addictive Diseases, Rockefeller University, New York, NY, United States.
"VP Dole" Dual Diagnosis Unit, Azienda Ospedaliera-Universitaria Pisana, Pisa, Italy.
Center for Clinical and Translational Science, The Rockefeller University Hospital, Rockefeller University, New York, NY, United States.


Background: The impact of increasing non-medical cannabis use on vulnerability to develop opioid use disorders has received considerable attention, with contrasting findings. A dimensional analysis of self-exposure to cannabis and other drugs, in individuals with and without opioid dependence (OD) diagnoses, may clarify this issue. Objective: To examine the age of onset of maximal self-exposure to cannabis, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, in volunteers diagnosed with OD, using a rapidly administered instrument (the KMSK scales). To then determine whether maximal self-exposure to cannabis, alcohol, and cocaine is a dimensional predictor of odds of OD diagnoses. Methods: This outpatient observational study examined maximal self-exposure to these drugs, in volunteers diagnosed with DSM-IV OD or other drug diagnoses, and normal volunteers. In order to focus more directly on opioid dependence diagnosis as the outcome, volunteers who had cocaine dependence diagnoses were excluded. Male and female adults of diverse ethnicity were consecutively ascertained from the community, and from local drug treatment programs, in 2002-2013 (n = 574, of whom n = 94 had OD diagnoses). The age of onset of maximal self-exposure of these drugs was examined. After propensity score matching for age at ascertainment, gender, and ethnicity, a multiple logistic regression examined how increasing self-exposure to non-medical cannabis, alcohol and cocaine affected odds of OD diagnoses. Results: Volunteers with OD diagnoses had the onset of heaviest use of cannabis in the approximate transition between adolescence and adulthood (mean age = 18.9 years), and onset of heaviest use of alcohol soon thereafter (mean age = 20.1 years). Onset of heaviest use of heroin and cocaine was detected later in the lifespan (mean ages = 24.7 and 25.3 years, respectively). After propensity score matching for demographic variables, we found that the maximal self-exposure to cannabis and cocaine, but not to alcohol, was greater in volunteers with OD diagnoses, than in those without this diagnosis. Also, a multiple logistic regression detected that increasing self-exposure to cannabis and cocaine, but not alcohol, was a positive predictor of OD diagnosis. Conclusions/Importance: Increasing self-exposure to non-medical cannabis, as measured with a rapid dimensional instrument, was a predictor of greater odds of opioid dependence diagnosis, in propensity score-matched samples.


adolescence; alcohol; cannabis; cocaine; dimensional; exposure; heroin; opioid

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