In a new study using nationally representative data, researchers observed a higher prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) within one year of marijuana and prescription drug misuse initiation among adolescents compared to young adults (10.7% vs 6.4%). The same result was observed when looking at prevalence of SUDs 36 months after marijuana or prescription drug misuse initiation (20.1% vs 10.9%). These results are consistent with previous research demonstrating the heightened vulnerability of the developing brain to addiction. The study also found that young adults (18-25 y) who reported lifetime heroin or methamphetamine use had a high prevalence of transitioning to heroin use disorder (30.9%) and methamphetamine disorder (24.9%) within 12 months of first use, underscoring the importance of increased prevention, screening, and treatment in this population.

Drug Free America Foundation Epidemiologist Dr. Sharif Mohr commented: “This study confirms what we know about the vulnerability of the developing adolescent brain to addiction. With social media emerging as an important source for drugs among teens, many dangerous synthetic drugs and research chemicals are just a click away. Thus, it is vital that we step up our prevention efforts to educate teens and parents on the manifold risks and lifelong consequences that come from the very first use of these substances.”