Patterns of Mean Age at Drug Use Initiation Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults, 2004-2017
Use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs at an early age increases the likelihood of drug use disorder, which may disrupt brain development.
A recent US report showed decreased incidence of some drugs, such as marijuana and tobacco, among people aged 12 to 17 years, while the contrary is true among those aged 18 to 25 years. This suggests an increase in the mean age at initiation of some drugs, although there is no confirmation of this in recent literature.
In this study, the researchers examine recent trends in the mean age at initiation for 18 internationally regulated drugs (including alcohol and tobacco), focusing on the critical neurodevelopmental period (ages 12-21 years), using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
The study found that between 2004 and 2017,
- the age of starting alcohol and tobacco use for teens rose from 16 to 17 years,
- for cocaine initiation the age went up from 18 to 19 years,
- the average age of when someone began using 12 of 18 drugs also rose. These drugs included alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, LSD, marijuana, stimulants, cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, and
- more than 84,000 youth over 12 years reported trying any drug.
This is great news, because delaying drug use prevents early exposure, which is associated with a variety of negative health consequences, including increased risk of drug use disorder and long-term impairments such as depression, neurocognitive deficits, involvement in risky behaviors, and sexually transmitted diseases,” said lead author Dr. Karl Alcover, a postdoctoral research associate in Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, according to Eureka Alert.
Our study shows that since 2004 fewer individuals started using drugs at age 15 and younger, which is what we would typically consider as early-onset drug use.
…these promising trends may serve as initial evidence that prevention strategies, especially those that focus on adolescents and young adults, are working,” said Dr. Alcover, as per UPI.