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Quitting cannabis use in your 20s cuts progression to other drugs

By catseye · Jul 19, 2011 · ·
  1. catseye
    Published on July 18, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Quitting cannabis use in your 20s significantly reduces your chance of progressing to other illicit drug use, according to research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

    The research from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales found that while cannabis use among Australians declines throughout their 20s, those who are using are more likely to be using weekly or more. These regular users have an increased risk of using other drugs compared with occasional users.

    While never having used cannabis was the most protective of uptake of any substance, licit or illicit, cannabis users who quit in their 20s were a third to half as likely to take up illicit drugs — cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine — as occasional users.

    Those who used weekly were two to three times more likely to start using illicit drugs than occasional users.

    Daily users were six times as likely to start smoking cigarettes. Daily users were also less likely to give up all other drugs except cocaine.

    The findings are based on secondary analyses of a landmark study of nearly 2000 Victorian secondary school students who have been followed up and interviewed over 13 years, starting in 1992. The students were interviewed at six six-monthly intervals during their teens and then again when they were aged 20-21, 24-25, and 29.

    Lead author of the study, Dr Wendy Swift from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said that while most studies on the relationship between cannabis and other drug use have focussed on adolescents this study is one of the first to look at what happens to cannabis users as young adults aged up to 29 years.

    Overall, while there was an overall decrease in cannabis use in young adulthood, the proportion of cannabis users who smoked the drug weekly to daily almost doubled.

    “What we found is that cannabis use dropped off markedly as people progressed through their twenties — 58 per cent of the cohort reported using cannabis at age 20 compared with only 28 per cent using at age 29 — but a significant proportion of these remaining users were using more frequently and were more likely to start or continue using illicit drugs,” said Dr Swift.

    Those who had never used cannabis were the least likely to begin using any other drugs, and were most likely to give up cigarette smoking and high-risk drinking in their 20s. At any point in time use of amphetamine, cocaine or ecstasy was virtually non-existent among non-users of cannabis.

    “This study provides compelling evidence of the continuing association between cannabis, licit and other illicit drug use well into young adulthood,” conclude the authors. “Findings from this study suggest discouraging users from increasing their use and assisting them to quit altogether have great potential to reduce harms associated with both licit and illicit drugs in young adults.”



  1. catseye
  2. Mindless
    An interesting article. I don't doubt that users of cannabis are more likely to use other drugs. Also, those who use other drugs are more likely to use cannabis. I doesn't necessarily follow that ceasing the use of cannabis at any age will be the direct cause of abstaining from other substances. Perhaps in this case we are seeing a correlation between quiting drugs in your 20s and subsequent decline in use of drugs over the next decade or longer. It just looks like we are more likely to establish a pattern of abstinence succesfully if we get into good habits in our twenties.
  3. godztear

    Your opinion is well noted. On the contrary, cannabis is often easier to come across as a minor as compared to buying a pack of smokes or alcohol due to age restrictions. For example, I may have tried to smoke a cigarette butt from my uncles ashtray when I was 9, but I did not start smoking cigarettes until I was 15 and knew people to buy me cigarettes from the gas station. I smoked weed when I was 9 and could get it from multiple places, therefore I smoked it regularly. Same concept applies to alcohol.

    For this reason I believe the study to be accurate, but askew. It may be easy for a 12 year old to score a bag of grass, compared to a 12 year old walking in a bar and coming out half lit from alcohol with a big bag of cocaine in his pocket. By the time a person reaches 20 they have already had multiple opportunities to acquire different illicit substances. There is no magic age for progression.
  4. lofty
    @ mindless

    Also, those who use other drugs are more likely to use cannabis

    I can't speak for everyone but a friend of mind started with amphetamine because of the price it was cheap. He stop everything because of his job for 6 years, left his job started with ecstasy and then cocaine. Only several times in all those years(from 14 to 38) he tried weed - he didn't like it, and saw too many people seriously messes up with it.
    young people will try weed first because it cheaper and more easier available than cocaine (agree with godztear). If other drugs were cheap who knows who would start on what drug, but weed has always been accepted and still is as a non harmful "cool" drug.
    I think if you are going to try 1 drug you will probably try another....its the person not there age group.
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