Examining the Connection Between Family History And Initiation of Use
There are many factors that contribute to the development of a substance use disorder. Both environmental and biological risk factors are in play in every case, and each individual has a unique group of risk factors that lead to the likelihood of the development of a substance use disorder.
A recent study examined two major risk factors for the development of a substance use disorder: transmissible risk and the initiation of use. Transmissible risk is the generational risk or family risk that contributes to the development of a health problem. It is a significant contributor to the development of a substance use disorder.
Initiation of use is also a major contributor. The age at which an individual first tries a drug or alcohol can have an important impact on their behaviors and choices associated with that substance. The study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh is the first to look at how transmissible risk is affected by age at the initiation of use.
Led by Tartar Kirisci of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, the researchers looked at how the age at which an individual first tries cannabis and its effects on transmissible risk. The study involved 339 children, who were followed from the age of 12 to 22. The researchers used the Transmissible Liability Index (TLI) to measure the level of risk for each child. In addition, the participants were required to provide information about the ages at which they first tried cannabis, alcohol and any other drugs.
The researchers found that the higher the score on the TLI, the younger the child was when they initiated use of alcohol or drugs. In addition, when a teen used cannabis before trying alcohol, they scored seven times higher than those whose first use involved alcohol.
This finding provides evidence that when a child’s first substance use is cannabis, they are at a much higher risk for developing a substance use disorder than those who try alcohol first. The researchers found that about one-quarter of the participants initiated substance use with cannabis instead of alcohol. This finding contradicts the popular gateway theory. The findings do not provide support for the understanding that alcohol opens the door to additional drug use.
The researchers discovered that many of the participants had used illegal drugs before they tried legal drugs or alcohol. While the findings did not provide evidence that early initiation increases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder, it did provide evidence that early initiation does increase the rate of transmissible risk.
The authors note the importance of using prevention efforts to target students who are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder.
The findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.