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Research Letter
March 2, 2020

Patterns of Mean Age at Drug Use Initiation Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults, 2004-2017

Author Affiliations
  • 1Elson Floyd College of Human Medicine, Department of Medical Education and Clinical Sciences, Washington State University, Spokane
  • 2Peds AI Clinic, East Lansing, Michigan
JAMA Pediatr. Published online March 2, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.6235

Use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs at an early age (eg, before age 18 years) increases the likelihood of drug use disorder,1,2 which may disrupt brain development.3 A recent US report4 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 we have found no confirmation of this in recent literature. In this study, we 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).

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