Study Finds Adolescents Starting Drug Use Later in Life Interview with:

Karl Alcover, PhD Postdoctoral Research Associate Behavioral Health Innovations Washington State University

Dr. Alcover

Karl Alcover, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Behavioral Health Innovations
Washington State University What is the background for this study?

Response: It has been a public health focus to prevent early exposure to drugs. Our paper shows that the average age of initiation of drug use among adolescents and young adults has been increasing from 2004 to 2017. We found that 12 of 18 drugs (including alcohol and tobacco products) had statistically increasing average ages of initiation. To our knowledge, no studies have documented these findings.

We think this is great news because delaying initiation of drugs prevents early exposure, which we know is associated with various long-term negative health outcomes. Also, these promising trends may serve as initial evidence that prevention strategies, especially those that focus on adolescents and young adults, are working. What are the main findings?

Response: The take home message is that recently adolescents started using drugs later in life. We hope that we continuously see this positive direction in the future years. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: We should further investigate what is happening and understand why we are seeing these trends. Has the focus or drug preference switched to new drugs introduced in the population (e.g., e-cigarettes)? 

No disclosure


Alcover KC, Thompson CL. Patterns of Mean Age at Drug Use Initiation Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults, 2004-2017. JAMA Pediatr. Published online March 02, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.6235




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Last Updated on March 2, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD