A Yale study published Tuesday in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that people who used alcohol or tobacco in their youth are almost twice as likely to abuse prescription opiate drugs than those who only used marijuana.
Researchers were careful to specify that any youth substance abuse, including just marijuana use, makes people more than twice as likely to abuse prescription opiate drugs in young adulthood. However, the study’s authors noted that clinical data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that of the 12 percent of young adults who said they’d abused prescription opiates, “prevalence of previous substance use was 57% for alcohol, 56% for cigarettes, and 34% for marijuana.”
Interestingly, the Yale study also found a bit of a gender skew that may indicate boys are naturally more inclined than girls to engage in risk-taking behaviors. “We found that among young boys, all previous substance use (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana), but only previous marijuana use in young girls, was associated with an increased likelihood of subsequent abuse of prescription opioids during young adulthood,” researchers wrote.
The findings seem to confirm a study published last month in The Journal of School Health, which fleshed out several misconceptions about the so-called “gateway drug” theory and pinpointed alcohol, instead of marijuana, as the most commonly abused substance for first-time drug users.