Childhood traumatic experiences and the association with marijuana and cocaine use in adolescence through adulthood


Scheidell, Joy D.; Quinn, Kelly; McGorray, Susan P.; Frueh, B. Christopher; Beharie, Nisha N.; Cottler, Linda B.; & Khan, Maria R. (2018). Childhood traumatic experiences and the association with marijuana and cocaine use in adolescence through adulthood. Addiction. vol. 113 (1) pp. 44-56


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Examination of longitudinal relationships between childhood traumatic experiences and drug use across the life-course at the national level, with control of confounding by other forms of trauma, is needed. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of nine typologies of childhood traumas and the cumulative number experienced, correlation between traumas, and associations between individual and cumulative number of traumas with drug use during adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood. DESIGN: Secondary data analysis using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health SETTING: United States of America. PARTICIPANTS: A nationally-representative sample of individuals in grades 7-12 (ages 11-21) during 1994-95, who were re-interviewed during emerging adulthood (2001-02; ages 18-26) and adulthood (2007-08; ages 24-32). The analytic sample is 12,288 participants with data at all three waves. MEASUREMENTS: Nine typologies of childhood traumas: neglect; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; parental incarceration and binge drinking; and witnessing, being threatened with, and experiencing violence. Indicators of each were summed to measure cumulative dose. Outcomes were marijuana and cocaine use during adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood. FINDINGS: Approximately 53% experienced at least one childhood trauma; traumas were not highly correlated. We observed a dose-response relationship between the number of traumas and drug use in adolescence (marijuana adjusted odds ratio (AOR) one trauma vs. none=1.65, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.42, 1.92; two traumas=2.58, 95%CI: 2.17, 3.06; >/=four traumas=6.92, 95%CI: 5.17, 9.26; cocaine AOR one trauma=1.87, 95%CI: 1.23, 2.84; two traumas=2.80, 95%CI: 1.74, 4.51; >/=four trauma=9.54, 95%CI: 5.93, 15.38). Similar dose-response relationships with drug use were observed in emerging adulthood and adulthood. Each individual trauma was independently associated with either marijuana or cocaine use in adolescence, emerging adulthood, and/or adulthood. CONCLUSIONS: Childhood trauma is prevalent in the US and individual types as well as the total number experienced are significantly associated with marijuana and cocaine use throughout the life-course.



adolescence childhood trauma cocaine life-course marijuana young adulthood

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title



Scheidell, Joy D.
Quinn, Kelly
McGorray, Susan P.
Frueh, B. Christopher
Beharie, Nisha N.
Cottler, Linda B.
Khan, Maria R.

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Volume Number


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August 4, 2017





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