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June 2022

Weekly marijuana use as a risk factor for initial cocaine use: Results from a six-wave national survey

Author(s): Volk, R. J.

Journal/Book: J Child Adolesc Subst Abuse. 1996; 5: 10 Alice St, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580. Haworth Press Inc. 55-78.

Abstract: The gateway hypothesis argues that most adolescents begin experimenting with cigarettes or alcohol, progress to marijuana use and finally to other illicit substance use. Prior research has supported this hypothesis, although prior research has not examined the effects of weekly marijuana use on specific illicit substances such as cocaine and has not attempted to identify psychosocial mediators of predictive relationships among substances. The current study uses longitudinal national survey data with six assessment periods and a comprehensive set of psychosocial risk factors for substance use to examine relationships between cocaine and marijuana use using discrete-time survival analysis for multiwave longitudinal data. The results of the current study show that weekly marijuana use, as opposed to initial marijuana use, is an independent risk factor for initial cocaine use. Weekly marijuana users were over ten times more likely to initiate cocaine within the next year. The results also show that many psychosocial predictors are not predictive of initial cocaine use after controlling for prior weekly marijuana use. However, the association between weekly marijuana use and cocaine use is, in part, mediated by delinquent attitudes. We conclude that weekly marijuana use is a risk factor for cocaine use that is equal to or greater in magnitude than other risk factors for initial cocaine use such as deviant peer bonding and attitudes toward deviance. These findings argue for some revision of the gateway hypothesis and psychosocial theories of substance use. In addition, the current research shows support for clinical observations which suggest that regular use of any illicit substance is likely to spawn experimentation with other illicit substances.

Note: Article Miller TQ, Univ Texas, Med Branch, Dept Prevent Med, Galveston,TX 77550 USA


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