Is Adversity in Childhood Linked to Marijuana Use in Adulthood?: Findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Substance use & misuse








Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events, which can have long-term, negative consequences. Few studies have examined ACEs' relationship to marijuana use. We examined the association between ACEs and past-month marijuana use among adults and the pathways between childhood adversity and marijuana use. Adults from five states (n = 22,991) who responded to the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System were included. We examined the prevalence of ACEs and marijuana use. We employed generalized structural equation modeling to assess the relationship between ACEs and marijuana use and the role of depression and poor mental and physical health as possible mediators. Overall, 65.0% of the population reported 1+ ACE. Heavy marijuana use and past-month marijuana use prevalence rates were 10.3% and 5.0%, respectively. We found mediation effects for depression and poor mental health but not poor physical health. The number of ACEs was associated with a statistically significant increase in any past-month marijuana use-indirect effects ranged from 1.0 (95% CI, 1.0-1.0) to 1.4 (95% CI, 1.2-1.7), direct effects ranged from 1.1 (95% CI, 07-1.7) to 5.3 (95% CI 3.2-8.8), and total effects ranged from 1.1 (95% CI, 0.7-1.7) to 5.9 (95% CI, 3.6-9.8). Women, married persons, and middle aged and older adults had a lower odds of marijuana use. Reporting at least one HIV risk behavior was associated with an increased odds of marijuana use. ACE exposure was positively associated with marijuana use. Depression and poor mental health separately mediated this relationship.


Nursing Faculty Publications