Newswise — Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) develop with time and in stages. Following the initiation of drinking, some people progress to problem drinking, and then develop a “cluster” of specific problems to comprise an AUD. However, not all stages of AUD development have been studied equally. This report examines high-risk families to understand underlying influences across multiple stages of AUD development.

Researchers scrutinized four transitions in AUD development using data on adolescents and young adults from high-risk families: time to first drink, first drink to first problem, first drink to first diagnosis, and first problem to first diagnosis. Potential influences included parental AUD, parental separation, peer substance use, ever use of marijuana by offspring, trauma exposures, and different psychopathologies across transitions.

Results showed that significant influences across all transitions were fairly consistent, with externalizing psychopathologies and ever use of marijuana increasing the likelihood of transition at each stage. Peer and parental influences – especially maternal AUD – were linked to initiation and some later stages. Given increasingly permissive attitudes toward marijuana use in the United States, the authors suggest that more research be directed toward understanding the association of AUD development with marijuana use.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research