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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Identifying subtypes of dual alcohol and marijuana users: A methodological approach using cluster analysis

Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used with marijuana. However, little is known about the potential impact of different levels of use of both alcohol and marijuana and their influence on risky behaviors, injuries and psychosocial functioning. A systematic approach to identifying patterns of alcohol and marijuana use associated with increased risks has not yet been identified in the literature.

We report on the secondary analysis of data collected from a RCT conducted in a busy urban emergency department. Cluster analysis was performed on the patterns of past 30-day alcohol and marijuana use in two random subsamples N₁ = 210 and N₂ = 217.

Four distinct subtypes of those who use both alcohol and marijuana were identified: (1) Daily Marijuana and Weekly Alcohol users; (2) Weekly Alcohol and Weekly Marijuana users; (3) Daily Alcohol and Daily Marijuana users; and (4) Daily Alcohol, Weekly Marijuana users. The four subtypes were replicated in both subsamples and examination of the external validity using ANOVA to determine cluster differences on psychosocial and behavioral variables confirmed the theoretical relevance of different patterns of alcohol and marijuana use. There were significantly different psychosocial negative consequences and related risky behaviors among subtypes.

We found that Daily Alcohol and Daily Marijuana users are at the highest risk to experience more negative consequences and engage in a broader spectrum of risky behaviors related to both substances, than the other three types of alcohol and marijuana users.

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