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Marijuana and Alcohol Use: What puts Teens at risk?

Teens often use alcohol and sometimes use marijuana at the same time.† What are the circumstances and consequences of simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana?† A recent study by the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation was designed to help answer these questions.† The researchers investigated under what circumstances adolescents used both alcohol and marijuana and what sort of problems they experienced as a result.

One hundred fifty adolescents (15-18 years old) in California were recruited for the study.† They received smartphone surveys in early and late evenings and again the following morning.† They were asked in what social and situational contexts they drank alcohol and used other substances over 3 evening hours. They were also asked what problems they experienced each evening on the following morning. Problems included such things as getting into a verbal argument or a physical fight, getting hurt or injured, getting into trouble with the police, getting into trouble with parents or other adults, having risky sex, driving after drinking alcohol, riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, and getting drunk.

Results showed that greater adult supervision in every setting was associated with a 55% lower risk of simultaneous of alcohol and marijuana. Contexts with no other underage drinkers were associated with 99% lower risk of simultaneous use. Each occasion of simultaneous use was related to 110% increase in the number of problems, greater odds of violence, driving under the influence or riding with a drunk driver, or being drunk.† Additional analyses showed that these problems may be attributed largely to the alcohol consumed in each context.

Results demonstrate that it is essential to consider situational and social characteristics of substance use contexts to better understand adolescent use of alcohol and drugs and associated problems and how to prevent them. Lead author, Sharon Lipperman-Kreda stated, “Our results show that alcohol use, whether or not used with marijuana simultaneously, is an important contributor to problems.† It is important to consider where and in what circumstances adolescents use alcohol and other drugs and how we can modify these circumstances to reduce these behaviors and related risks.† In particular, we should look at unsupervised social settings with larger numbers of underage drinkers.† Effective strategies to target these risky contexts may include social host laws that prohibit the hosting of underage drinking parties.”

Source: Lipperman-Kreda, Sharon, Gruenewald, Paul J., Grube, Joel W., Bersamin, Melina, Adolescents, alcohol, and marijuana: Context characteristics and problems associated with simultaneous use.† Drug and Alcohol Dependence.† http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.06.023