Study: Alcohol, Tobacco Typically Precede Marijuana Use

College Station, TX: Alcohol is typically the first substance consumed by individuals who report polydrug use later in life, according to data published in The Journal of School Health.

Researchers from Texas A&M University and the University of Florida, Gainesville evaluated drug use patterns from a nationally representative sample of 2,835 12th graders.

Youth alcohol use most often preceded the use of tobacco or marijuana. Subjects’ age of alcohol initiation was the strongest predictor of later polydrug use, authors found.

“Alcohol is the most commonly used substance, and the majority of polysubstance using respondents consumed alcohol prior to tobacco or marijuana initiation,” they reported. “Our results … assert that the earlier one initiates alcohol use, the more likely that they will engage in future illicit substance use.”

Studies conducted by the RAND Corporation and others have previously dismissed any causal role of marijuana as a gateway to subsequent illicit drug abuse, finding, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other drugs.”

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Establishing Alcohol as the Gateway Drug and Linking Age of First Drink With Illicit Drug Use,” appears in The Journal of School Health.