Does parents’ marijuana use increase the risk of substance use by their kids?

parents' marijuana use

A new study examines the link between parents’ marijuana use and substance use by their children.

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, and recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states.  As a result, marijuana use is more common than it was a decade ago.  The percentage of people in the United States who used marijuana in the past year increased from 11.0% in 2002 to 15.9% in 2018 in individuals aged 12 and older, and the greatest increases were observed in young adults.

The use of marijuana in early life is associated with an increased risk of psychosis, depression, and cognitive impairments.  To determine factors that could contribute to marijuana and overall substance use in youth, recent research assessed whether parents’ marijuana use could be a contributing factor.  The study, published in JAMA Network Open examined the association between parents’ marijuana use and the use of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and opiates by their children.

Data was collected between 2015 and 2018 from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, and the study was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  The study group included 24,900 pairs of one parent and their child.  The pairs consisted of adolescents between the age of 12 and 17 that lived with a parent born between 1955 and 1984, as well as adults between the age of 18 and 30 who lived with a parent born between 1955 and 1980.

Researchers asked participants whether they used marijuana, alcohol, or illicit drugs in the past year, as well as in their lifetime.  They also asked participants whether or not they misused any prescription opioids, stimulants, or sedatives in the past year, or their lifetime.  Participants who admitted to past-year marijuana use were also asked the number of days in the past year they had used marijuana.

Past-year marijuana use was higher in adolescents whose parents had used marijuana compared with those whose parents had never used marijuana.  Past-year tobacco and alcohol use was also increased in adolescents whose parent had used marijuana.  Finally, past-year opiate misuse was increased in adolescents whose parents used marijuana more than once a week.

The results of this study suggest that parents’ marijuana use could increase the risk of their kids using marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol.  It could also potentially increase the risk of opioid misuse by their children.  More research is needed to determine if this effect is causal.

Written by Avery Bisbee


Harding, A. (2013, November 4). Medical Marijuana Treatment Uses and How It Works. Retrieved November 25, 2019, from

Madras, B. K., Han, B., & Compton, W. M., et al.  (2019). Associations of Parental Marijuana Use With Offspring Marijuana, Tobacco, and Alcohol Use and Opioid Misuse. JAMA Network Open2(11). doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.16015

Is parents’ use of marijuana associated with greater likelihood of kids’ substance use? (2019, November 22). Retrieved November 25, 2019, from

Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC – Medical Marijuana – (2019, July 24). Retrieved November 25, 2019, from

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

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