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Tobacco Smokers Have High Probability of Transition to Dependence

April 19, 2012
This figure contains data representing probability of transition to dependence for nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine over up to 85 years since first use of a given substance. Nicotine users have by far the highest probably of eventual transition to dependence, but cocaine dependence rises most quickly during the first few years.

First-time smokers have a 68 percent chance of sooner or later becoming nicotine dependent, according to a recent estimate based on national survey data. The probability of first-time alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis users transitioning to dependence was much less. For cocaine and cannabis, about half of the eventual cases of dependency occurred within 4 and 5 years, respectively, after first use. For alcohol and nicotine, half of the dependencies developed in 13 and 27 years, respectively. Estimates were based on self-report data from 15,918 nicotine, 28,907 alcohol, 7,389 cannabis, and 2,259 cocaine users who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).


Lopez-Quintero, C., et al. Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug and Alcohol Dependence 115(1-2):120–130, 2011. Abstract Available

This page was last updated April 2012

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