NYU Researchers Examine Whether Reasons For Smoking Marijuana Are Associated With Use Of Other Drugs

(WeedBlog) A new study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse by researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), examines how reasons for illicit marijuana use relates to the use of other drugs individually, rather than grouping them into a single “illicit drug” group.

“Aside from marijuana, a wide range of illicit drugs are prevalent, each having different use patterns, and different effects and dangers associated with use,” said Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). “Our research helped to identify subtypes of illicit marijuana users who use other drugs, as this may be able to inform prevention efforts.”

The cross-sectional study, “Reasons for Recent Marijuana Use in Relation to Use of Other Illicit Drugs among High School Seniors in the United States,” draws data from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nationwide ongoing annual study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students. The MTF survey is administered in approximately 130 public and private schools throughout 48 states in the US. Roughly 15,000 high school seniors are assessed annually.

Analyses focused on data collected from high school seniors (12th graders), in 12 cohorts (2000-2011; weighted N=6,481), who reported use of marijuana in the last 12 months. The analysis examined self-reported use of eight other illicit drugs: powder cocaine, crack, heroin, LSD, other psychedelics, and nonmedical use of amphetamine/stimulants, tranquilizers/benzodiazepines, and narcotics (other than heroin).

The researchers found that using marijuana to alleviate boredom was associated with increased risk for reporting use of powder cocaine or hallucinogens other than LSD. Nearly a fifth (19.8%) of the sample reported using marijuana for insight or understanding and this reason was also positively related to use of hallucinogens other than LSD. And, 11% reported using marijuana to increase the effects of other drugs; this was a consistent correlate of reporting use of each drug examined in this analysis, even when controlling for sociodemographic and substance use variables.

“Interestingly, we found that using marijuana ‘to experiment’ decreased risk of reporting use of each of the eight drugs examined before adjusting for other variables,” said Palamar. “The marijuana users in this sample who used to experiment were consistently at low risk for use of nonmedical use of prescription narcotics.”

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