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who use only marijuana than among those who abuse cocaine or those who abuse marijuana with other drugs (including alcohol).19, 143

Data gathered in 1990-1992 from the National Comorbidity Study of over 8,000 persons 15-54 years old indicate that 4.2% of the general population were dependent on marijuana at some time.8 Similar results for the frequency of substance abuse among the general population were obtained from the Epidemiological Catchment Area Program, a survey of over 19,000 people. According to data collected in the early 1980s for that study, 4.4% of adults have, at one time, met the criteria for marijuana dependence. In comparison, 13.8% of adults met the criteria for alcohol dependence and 36.0% for tobacco dependence. After alcohol and nicotine, marijuana was the substance most frequently associated with a diagnosis of substance dependence.

In a 15-year study begun in 1979, 7.3% of 1,201 adolescents and young adults in suburban New Jersey at some time met the criteria for marijuana dependence; this indicates that the rate of marijuana dependence might be even higher in some groups of adolescents and young adults than in the general population.71 Adolescents meet the criteria for drug dependence at lower rates of marijuana use than do adults, and this suggests that they are more vulnerable to dependence than adults25 (see Box 3.2).

Youths who are already dependent on other substances are particularly vulnerable to marijuana dependence. For example, Crowley and coworkers31 interviewed a group of 229 adolescent patients in a residential treatment program for delinquent, substance-involved youth and found that those patients were dependent on an average of 3.2 substances. The adolescents had previously been diagnosed as dependent on at least one substance (including nicotine and alcohol) and had three or more conduct disorder symptoms during their life. About 83% of those who had used marijuana at least six times went on to develop marijuana dependence. About equal numbers of youths in the study had a diagnosis of marijuana dependence and a diagnosis of alcohol dependence; fewer were nicotine dependent. Comparisons of dependence potential between different drugs should be made cautiously. The probability that a particular drug will be abused is influenced by many factors, including the specific drug effects and availability of the drug.

Although parents often state that marijuana caused their children to be rebellious, the troubled adolescents in the study by Crowley and coworkers developed conduct disorders before marijuana abuse. That is consistent with reports that the more symptoms of conduct disorders children have, the younger they begin drug abuse,127 and that the earlier they begin drug use, the more likely it is to be followed by abuse or dependence.125

Genetic factors are known to play a role in the likelihood of abuse for

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