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Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)

Catalina Lopez-Quintero, José Pérez de los Cobos, Deborah S Hasin, Mayumi Okuda, Shuai Wang, Bridget F Grant, Carlos Blanco
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2011 May 1, 115 (1-2): 120-30
21145178

BACKGROUND: This study aims to estimate general and racial-ethnic specific cumulative probability of developing dependence among nicotine, alcohol, cannabis or cocaine users, and to identify predictors of transition to substance dependence.

METHODS: Analyses were done for the subsample of lifetime nicotine (n=15,918), alcohol (n=28,907), cannabis (n=7389) or cocaine (n=2259) users who participated in the first and second wave of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Discrete-time survival analyses were implemented to estimate the cumulative probability of transitioning from use to dependence and to identify predictors of transition to dependence.

RESULTS: The cumulative probability estimate of transition to dependence was 67.5% for nicotine users, 22.7% for alcohol users, 20.9% for cocaine users, and 8.9% for cannabis users. Half of the cases of dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis and cocaine were observed approximately 27, 13, 5 and 4 years after use onset, respectively. Significant racial-ethnic differences were observed in the probability of transition to dependence across the four substances. Several predictors of dependence were common across the four substances assessed.

CONCLUSIONS: Transition from use to dependence was highest for nicotine users, followed by cocaine, alcohol and cannabis users. Transition to cannabis or cocaine dependence occurred faster than transition to nicotine or alcohol dependence. The existence of common predictors of transition dependence across substances suggests that shared mechanisms are involved. The increased risk of transition to dependence among individuals from minorities or those with psychiatric or dependence comorbidity highlights the importance of promoting outreach and treatment of these populations.

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