Is it important to prevent early exposure to drugs and alcohol among adolescents?

Psychol Sci. 2008 Oct;19(10):1037-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02196.x.

Abstract

Exposure to alcohol and illicit drugs during early adolescence has been associated with poor outcomes in adulthood. However, many adolescents with exposure to these substances also have a history of conduct problems, which raises the question of whether early exposure to alcohol and drugs leads to poor outcomes only for those adolescents who are already at risk. In a 30-year prospective study, we tested whether there was evidence that early substance exposure can be a causal factor for adolescents' future lives. After propensity-score matching, early-exposed adolescents remained at an increased risk for a number of poor outcomes. Approximately 50% of adolescents exposed to alcohol and illicit drugs prior to age 15 had no conduct-problem history, yet were still at an increased risk for adult substance dependence, herpes infection, early pregnancy, and crime. Efforts to reduce or delay early substance exposure may prevent a wide range of adult health problems and should not be restricted to adolescents who are already at risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology
  • Conduct Disorder / prevention & control
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Crime / prevention & control
  • Crime / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion*
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology
  • Herpes Genitalis / prevention & control
  • Herpes Genitalis / psychology
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Illicit Drugs