Study: Alcohol, Tobacco Typically Precede Marijuana Use

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 15, 2016

    whha-souzaAlcohol is typically the first substance consumed by individuals who report polydrug use later in life, according to data published this month 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.

    Authors found that youth use of alcohol most often preceded the use of tobacco or marijuana. They also reported subjects’ age of alcohol initiation is the strongest predictor of later polydrug use.

    “Alcohol is the most commonly used substance, and the majority of polysubstance using respondents consumed alcohol prior to tobacco or marijuana initiation,” they reported. “Respondents initiating alcohol use in sixth grade reported significantly greater lifetime illicit substance use and more frequent illicit substance use than those initiating alcohol use in ninth grade or later.”

    They concluded, “Our results … assert that the earlier one initiates alcohol use, the more likely that they will engage in future illicit substance use.”

    The findings are inconsistent with recent claims made by several prominent lawmakers that cannabis is a ‘gateway’ to later substance abuse.

    Studies conducted by the RAND Corporation and others have previously dismissed any alleged 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.”

    An abstract of the study, “Prioritizing Alcohol Prevention: Establishing Alcohol as the Gateway Drug and Linking Age of First Drink With Illicit Drug Use,” appears online here.

    12 Responses to “Study: Alcohol, Tobacco Typically Precede Marijuana Use”

    1. Wm says:

      But but but alcohol is legal… Hi Normal Folks, we’ve known this all along.

    2. Ben says:


      That is just about EVERY SINGLE ONE.

      This effectively closes out all the
      counter-points I can think of:

      – health risk ===> proven to be virtually harmless,
      and a health benefit

      – societal risk ===> CO and WA do just fine
      the sky ISN’T falling

      – crime rate ===> again, clear sailing in CO/WA

      – driving risks ===> found to be similar to tired driving

      – economically invalid ===> CO and WA are profiting, and $AVING

      – medicinally useless ===> demonstrated multiply beneficial

      AND NOW



      come on America!

      WAKE UP!


      I DARE YOU


      WHY IN THE @$%^&*!@#$!
      should cannabis remain illegal for adults,
      within the logical boundaries afforded the consumption of wine?


      I will personally reason/argue with ANYONE about the merits
      of legalization, and the vacuum of valid reasons for maintaining prohibition.

    3. Rick Knouse says:

      Please make the veterans that are trying to meet with Gov. Abbott, of Texas, aware of this article prior to the meeting.

    4. Ben says:


      America needs to realize that
      synthetic marijuana-
      whether K2 or other street hyped garbage-
      or even pharmaceutical designs,
      ,in this case, from France,
      are DANGEROUS.


      LEGALIZE cannabis in 2016!

    5. Julian says:

      Ha! Alcohol is the “gateway” drug. I was just saying this to my brother in law, a self-proclaimed alcoholic, that the main reason I never got into harder drugs (like he did) was because I always managed to retain enough consciousness at parties to say “no thanks” to the pills and the meth dealer. Heeey, that sliver of consciousness came from the joint that was passing around that lead me to drink less… _\!/_

    6. mexweed says:

      Therefore if children under 13 had access to experience supervised moderate ingestion of cannabis they might reject binge exposures that lead to alcohol addiction?

      (As NORML has pointed out, various influential anti-cannabis “gateway theory” politicians receive substantial campaign funding from alcohol marketing interests which have a vested interest in alcohol bingeing and addiction.)

      SAM-campaigner Kevin Sabet reminds that SAM has also opposed Big Tobacco, for the same reasons as they oppose a Big Marijuana– can Sabet and SAM then agree that Big Tobacco is the 700-mg combustion $igarette, Big Marijuana is the 500-mg combustion Joint, and that children are best protected by eliminating not the tobacco or the cannabis but the Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide Paperstuffroll Format, replacing it with a 25-mg Single VAPEtoke dosage regulation utensil?

      And can Wassermann-Schultz, Christie and others agree that this method also applies to alcohol, maybe in the form of a tax differential based on rewarding when the beer or wine is supplied in a sippable 2-ounce airliner bottle with a cap instead of 12- and 24-ounce nonresealable drinkitallnowpanic cans?

      PREVENTION: the flexdrawtube one-hitter and the airliner bottle are “devices” which can eliminate any “vice” or vicious character of a substance such as alcoholic beverage or sifted cannabis flowerbud, preventing the overdose-related morbidity and death and medical expenses now angrily borne by taxpayer.

      • maxwood says:

        PS. Some persons who knew how to enjoy and benefit from cannabis have expressed here a concern that alcohol damages the quality of the art, work, sex, exercise that the cannabis provided an opportunity for during a few hours immediate aftertime. In this way some children “get wise” and shun the booze.

    7. dave says:

      My Marijuana use was preceded by water, juice and milk. I never had any beer or alcohol till 2 years after i used pot. I’m glad i found weed first.

    8. dave says:

      besides, weed never had an age restriction, but with beer you had to be 18 to buy it. I’m happy about having the black market as a teenager, pot was always easiest to get.

    9. Galileo Galilei says:

      Alcohol promotes risky behavior and seems far more likely to be a ‘gateway drug’, at least in any way I would use the term.

      Tobacco use mystifies me. I think it’s a corporate plot to addict our children by pushing images blaring an adolescent’s view of what ‘mature’ means.

      I’m sure I need not mention the evils of the assassin of youth in this forum.

    10. Freck says:

      You can check out any 4th grade class and tell the ones that will have substance issues. They are the ones drinking all the high sugar and caffinated drinks.

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